Battalion, a creative and tech agency have recently expanded their offices to Manchester, this article discusses the reasons behind the move and the recent explosion of tech innovation and investment in the UK’s capital of the north.
Once the epicentre of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester has never lost its penchant for innovation and hard-working spirit. Long famed for music, football, scientific firsts and technological advancements, it is little wonder that Europe’s tech scene has found fertile soil in the UK’s second city.
From the invention of the computer itself, to the pioneering work of Alan Turing in theoretical computer science and Artificial Intelligence, Manchester has a history of being at the forefront of technology.
This, combined with the artistic centres across the city, from the stunning Whitworth gallery, to cutting edge theatre at the Royal Exchange, plus an infamous nightlife which continues the Hacienda’s legacy, results in Manchester’s rich and exciting cultural scene.
It is this ideal breeding ground for tech companies to operate in that perhaps led Andy Burnham to declare Manchester a world leading digital city, and express his commitment to continuing to develop the Northern Powerhouse.
Manchester as a city is an attractive proposition for both tech entrepreneurs and workers alike. A vibrant nightlife, an extensive transport system and living costs 30% cheaper than London, combined with an educated workforce and a rapidly growing tech community makes it the ideal UK base for startups. This is a reputation that Manchester is keen to maintain in a growing digital economy.
According to the report by Tech Nation (2017), Manchester was stated to have a digital turnover of £2.9 billion, along with over 62,000 jobs in the tech and digital sector and 898 startups created. In fact the UK as a whole dominates the tech scene in Europe with digital tech investment over 50% higher than any other European country.
In 2016 Manchester was voted the best European location to do business, further evidencing that Manchester’s reach in business is not simply national, but rather it is having a real impact in the European tech scene too.
The last few years have seen significantly more businesses move into the city to take a piece of the pie. Year on year there has been a 20% increase in the take up of office space according to Savills Manchester Office Report.
One of the appeals of Manchester as opposed to its closest rival, London, is affordability. It is this that is driving startups and even corporate firms such as the BBC to relocate north to a more affordable city, but one which crucially still has the infrastructure required to bring about success.
The growth in opportunities is primarily the result of the ongoing Northern Powerhouse initiative which is supporting expansion in different sectors across Manchester, particularly the tech industry. As a result, outside of the capital Manchester hosts the UK’s largest tech force.
A genuine startup culture has been fostered in Manchester, as the home of over 100,000 students from five different universities there is a definite environment of fresh and creative ideas brought on by youth and dynamism.
Institutions such as University of Manchester and University of Salford are encouraging creativity and collaboration between industry and students. And investments in MediaCityUK continue to develop talent in the digital and technology industries.
Supportive networks such as Tech Manchester and UK Fast’s new tech campus for startups have been founded to help nurture talent and advance the tech startup scene.
These hubs have been instrumental in encouraging forward thinking entrepreneurs to share space and collaborate. Other prominent organisations built to help nourish the tech startups include Business Growth Hub, Spaceport and Rise. All focused on nurturing a community which encourages growth.
A plentitude of co-working spaces additionally helps attract entrepreneurs to develop their business in a professional environment without the huge overhead of a private office. This support system in place for ambitious go-getters and innovators is what enables them to thrive in the city with a long heritage of supporting its workers.
Manchester has a strong community, which helps to support new up-starters, monthly events such as Startup Brew really typify the attitude, sharing ideas and promoting collaboration between like-minded techies.
Out of this community have arisen a number of Manchester borne startup successes; Social Chain, UK Fast, Push Doctor, Digital Bridge, and Lad Bible to name a few.
This has sparked the attention of not only foreign investment, but European tech companies wanting to join the party. Diverse digital agencies have been migrating to British shores, such as Berlin based Battalion, who recognize the opportunity to collaborate with the wealth of tech startups, from launch to growth.
With Allied London recently announcing the expansion of Enterprise City for tech and media industry, the investment and belief in the city continues. As more international companies and investment floods into the city, the future of Manchester’s tech scene certainly looks bright.
The ever-growing city beckons opportunity and startups both in and outside the UK are increasingly looking to Manchester to lead the way. The hive of creativity and pioneering spirit that Manchester embodies has led to the development of nurturing support systems so startups can thrive.
Ultimately, the inclusive air generated by strong notions of creativity and collaboration are what have forced Manchester to be recognised as a real contender to be the next Tech Powerhouse of Europe.