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Manchester: Growing The Creative City for the Digital Age

In this guest post, Sam Winder from Business Growth Hub/ Creative England reflects on how the forthcoming Greater Manchester Creative and Digital Launchpad £1m fund (a partnership between the Technology Strategy Board and Business Growth Hub) will providely a timely investment boost to the region's flourishing creative economy.

Manchester has always been synonymous with creativity.  Well known for its rich heritage, it has also long been regarded for its culture with globally recognised museums, universities and galleries. From the 1980s it became just as well known for its creative industries - from the pioneering broadcaster Granada to the advent of Madchester and a thriving club scene.  Today, the Manchester International Festival has become, in just a few years, the UK’s second most important cultural festival. 

More recently, with the establishment of MediaCityUK, and the relocation to Salford Quays of significant BBC commissioning departments, Greater Manchester’s creative economy has expanded, diversified and sustained.  Not only has the BBC brought direct employment, it has given significant impetus to Manchester’s commercial creative sector, with an ecosystem of independent production companies, start-ups, freelance producers and other elements of the broadcast media ecosystem. 

The Sharp Project and its further developments are creating an additional hub of activity that is generating further growth and employment. This activity is additional to established centres of activity in Manchester city centre, such as the Northern Quarter. Greater Manchester also houses four established universities that provide a constant stream of creative talent into the region.

An important element of this growth has been within the digital content, services and technology industries. While much government and media attention has focused around ‘Tech City’ in East London, Manchester’s digital cluster is equally impressive. 

Greater Manchester is situated within the North West region of England and consists of the cities of Manchester and Salford together with the boroughs of Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan. It is the largest functional economic area outside of London, with a population of 2.6 million and gross value add of £46billion. The region has the second largest cluster of creative and digital businesses in the UK and Europe; as well as having the strong external trading connections to support the capacity for spreading innovation. The aspiration is that the city will be one of the world’s top 20 digital cities by 2020.

The role of such clusters in fostering innovation and economic growth has been the source of much policy interest in recent years – in the UK and beyond. The Technology Strategy Board has recognised this with the establishment of its Launchpad programmes. The Launchpad aims to drive innovation by working through economic clusters, supporting new ideas and knowledge exchange across the network of entrepreneurs and small businesses. It has already demonstrated its success in the digital sector by working in Tech City, but has also worked in other sector clusters, such as Harwell space and satellite technologies, and the Daresbury materials and manufacturing industries.

For Greater Manchester, the Creative and Digital Launchpad comes at exactly the right time, following as it does from considerable investment in public infrastructure and business growth. Greater Manchester may not yet have the same networks of angel investors or venture capital activity  that exist in London, but it certainly has the creative businesses. 

There is significant scope for its innovative SMEs to grow quickly through a combination of funding linked to business support. The Technology Strategy Board is directly partnering with Business Growth Hub in Manchester to deliver this package which will include Start Up, Mentoring, Growth, and Access to Finance support for the industry. As the creative industries firmly enter the digital age it looks as if, once again, Manchester will be in a leading position.

 

The Greater Manchester Digital and Creative Launchpad is a £1m fund to help develop the creative industries cluster in Manchester. The event on the 4th of November launching the opening of the competition is now closed. However if you would like to discuss the programme further please contact sam.winder@businessgrowthhub.com.

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