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Why Manchester is leading a digital and tech revolution

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

Manchester is - and always has been - a melting pot of ideas, innovation and creativity, underpinned by a gritty and realistic approach to business and industry that gets things done and drives our city forward.

Innovation is happening everywhere, and Manchester is no stranger as it’s currently at the centre of a boom in the digital and technology industries. The thriving technology industry in Manchester is evident, with recent figures showing that the city has over 7,500 tech companies and 1,600 startups were launched in 2016 alone.

The city recently earned its place in the Top 20 European Digital City Index, and is now apparently the single biggest technology hub outside of London, as it boasts over 62,000 tech jobs.

Manchester continues to be an important city globally, with plans for it to be one of the first cities to get superfast 5G, as well as new initiatives like Project Forward and Manchester City Council awarding two £2m grants to establish tech hubs.

A pioneering approach

Manchester has always been home to strong individuals who have driven concepts and industries forward, often in the fact of adversity. We are the home of the Industrial Revolution, votes for women, modern computer science, the oldest library in the England-speaking world, vegetarianism, Rolls Royce, the world’s first railway line, the submarine, socialism, and most recently, graphene.

Going against the grain is something that we do, and it gets results. It shouldn’t come as much surprise to suggest that Manchester is the city that is leading a digital and tech revolution.

Space to flourish

For Manchester’s many tech and creative start-ups, the cost of buying or renting office space in the city can be prohibitive, but luckily, Manchester’s collaborative working space culture is beginning to step into the spotlight.

There are numerous collaborative spaces located across the city, including our own space, which help to provide office space or hot desks, refreshments and even yoga studios for Manchester’s burgeoning community of tech start-ups and digital creatives. This all eliminates the need for paying business rates and provides a base in the city centre for entrepreneurs and innovative businesses.

Not only that, but it shows Manchester businesses are becoming more aware of how to get the most out of their employees, choosing to embrace the benefits of flexible working, rather than run from it. The end result is happier employees who are more productive, and therefore, more successful businesses.

A community approach

Manchester’s collaborative working spaces provide much more than just desk space as they also provide a community approach to business for the tech sector. This means start ups and scale up companies can share ideas and work together in order to get the best results. This very Mancunian approach to business means that skills and knowledge are shared within the community - and what better way is there to bolster the Northern Powerhouse?

At our opening event, we had ex-Manchester United star Gary Neville, who not only owns a successful digital agency, but recently put forward plans to open a university academy. In his talk, Gary said: “Technology should be a thread through every single (university) course. Every sector should have an element of technology immersed through it, and everyone needs a deep understanding of the digital sector. [Tech] should be absolutely immersed in education.”

Thankfully, Manchester (and its close neighbour Salford) is home to three major universities, all of which are a big pull for the technology sector. The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan and the University of Salford have a proven track record when it comes to collaborating with the city’s tech industry and businesses, providing robust R&D in areas such as cloud computing and cyber security. The three universities also provide a regular stream of graduates in technology and computer sciences, which helps the city’s industry to thrive.

Companies leading the way

It’s no surprise really that Manchester is leading the way in terms of digital and tech when you look at some of the names it can boast as home grown.

Take Formisimo for example, who can predict whether or not consumers will complete an online purchase, and help companies to improve the conversion rates of online platforms. This fast-growing technology start-up has more than doubled its revenues year on year since it was founded in 2013, and is used by thousands of businesses worldwide, including Uber, Samsung and Toyota.

Another great example is Cubic Motion who, after nine years in the industry, has become a global leader in real-time motion capture and facial animation technology. The company’s cutting-edge technology is able to create believable digital characters that users can interact with in real time, and have also created characters for video games including Call of Duty and Batman, and are currently working on an exciting project for Spiderman.

And lastly, we wouldn’t like to blow our own trumpet, but our new technology hub Sync was born out of GBM Digital Technologies, the largest Apple Service Provider in the north, who, for the last 25 years, have been working with businesses to integrate Apple technology into their existing infrastructure and developing tech solutions so businesses can increase productivity as well as drive down costs.  

In the last two years, GBM has been the largest Apple Authorised Reseller based on revenue and has been featured in the Tech Track Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies in the UK three times, so it’s great to know we’ve played a part in helping Manchester to lead the digital and tech revolution.

Chris Costello, director, Sync
Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa