Pedal power and the cycle of success behind Greater Manchester’s green transport goals

Greater Manchester is building on its international reputation for cycling success with a vision to encourage green transport and economic growth. Supported by GM LEP investment, the city-region is pedalling towards green growth and a more sustainable future.

It became known the world over as the Medal Factory, forging incredible international success for British Cycling while demonstrating the benefit of visionary investment in world-class infrastructure.

Opened in 1994 as a joint venture between Sport England, Manchester City Council and British Cycling, the Manchester Velodrome was the UK’s first indoor Olympic-standard cycling track.

Athletes trained at Manchester Velodrome secured 14 out of 20 potential gold medals at the Olympic Games in 2008 and 2012.

It contributed massively to the stellar careers of British athletes including Victoria Pendleton, Sir Chris Hoy and Chris Boardman, who today serves as Greater Manchester’s walking and cycling czar.

Now part of the HSBC National Cycling Centre, Manchester Velodrome arguably began the cycling revolution which has taken on even greater significance as the threat of climate change looms large over cities.

At a time when the UK Government has acknowledged the importance of walking and cycling as part of the Green Industrial Revolution, Greater Manchester is already geared up for green growth.

What started on the track continues on the streets as Greater Manchester bids to meet an ambitious goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2038.

It was two years ago that Chris Boardman first unveiled his bold £1.5bn, 10-year plan for 1,800 miles of cycling and walking routes across Greater Manchester.

Speaking at the time, Boardman said: “There’s no doubt that this is an incredibly ambitious but wholly deliverable plan to get Greater Manchester moving by bike and walking.

“The Mayor of Greater Manchester tasked me with thinking creatively, challenging assumptions and pushing the boundaries of what should be possible. My proposals, the product of many months of work, will ease congestion on our overcrowded roads, improve our general health and wellbeing and help us breathe cleaner air in a greener city-region.

“It will require significant support but the decades of improved living that we, our children and grandchildren will be able enjoy will make it worthwhile.”

Supporting this vision, plans are in place to enhance the city-region as a UK leader in cycling and walking, and investment in new infrastructure aims to pave the way for the region to achieve its green goals.

Back in 2018, Greater Manchester Combined Authority agreed to allocate £160m of Greater Manchester’s £243m Transforming Cities Fund to develop a Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund (MCF).

Helping the region reach its goals, Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (GM LEP) has provided £30.5m funding from the Local Growth Fund, which includes a £13.4m investment in cycling infrastructure, and a further £17.1m provided for walking.

The pandemic has provided clear evidence not only for the environmental benefits cycling and walking brings by reducing carbon emissions, but also the wellbeing benefits of improved physical and mental health for the residents of Greater Manchester.

There are other potential economic benefits too, with India’s Hero Cycles (see case study) among businesses keen to invest in a region with a rich history of innovation and sport. In part, they were attracted by the opportunity to work alongside scientists developing new applications for graphene and other 2D materials.

In line with the recently unveiled GM Economic Vision, which supports green growth, the region aims to re-think the way residents and visitors move around to cut congestion, air pollution and keep people active.

Part of the new investment by GM LEP will support the city-region’s post-Covid ambitions, with funding supporting projects to increase cycling and walking road space, contributing to lower emissions, and building the infrastructure that encourages residents to prioritise walking and cycling as a green and healthy way to travel.

Covid-19 has given opportunities for cities like Manchester to experiment, and throughout the UK lockdown both Deansgate, the city’s main thoroughfare; and Stevenson Square in the Northern Quarter have temporarily been pedestrianised to allow for greater accessibility to residents and to help with social distancing.

Plans are now under discussion to make the two sites permanent pedestrian zones to allow for more Continental-style on-street seating and walking provisions. Elsewhere, as part of the Town Hall renovation project, work is now fully underway for the expansion of Albert Square, which will ban through traffic and enlarge the square by 20 per cent to allow for pedestrians, events and increased seating.

Key among Chris Boardman’s ambitions is the Bee Network, which is the walking and cycling element of the Our Network plan to transform Greater Manchester’s transport system.

The Bee Network, once complete, will cover circa 1,800 miles and be the longest, integrated, planned network in the country connecting every neighbourhood of Greater Manchester.

The aim of the network is to reduce the 250 million car journeys made by people in the region that are less than the equivalent of a 15-minute walk or 5-minute cycle ride.

In November 2020, Greater Manchester was successful in securing almost £16m from the Government’s active travel fund for schemes to deliver cycling and walking routes and low traffic neighbourhoods. This is in addition to £3.1 million granted to the city-region in July 2020.

Cycling and walking routes are already being delivered by local authorities across Greater Manchester with a commitment to deliver 55 miles by December 2021.

Making cycling and walking more attractive is one of the measures outlined in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution for 250,000 jobs.

Supported by GM LEP, the cycling and walking revolution is already well underway in Greater Manchester.

 “GM LEP has provided funding to support the development of infrastructure across Greater Manchester, which will not only improve the lives of residents but offer a key driver for investors to look to relocate to the region, bringing jobs and boosting the economy, which will allow greater investment in future green projects,” said Lou Cordwell, Co-chair of GM LEP.

“Not only is cycling and walking incredibly important to mental health and wellbeing, it is also part of our ambition to build back better and supports green growth, one of the priorities within the new GM Economic Vision.”

Case study: Hero Cycles

As the UK’s fastest-growing economy outside of London, and the most successful city in the UK for attracting Foreign Direct Investment, Manchester has caught the attention of international investors, who are attracted to the city-region for its growing infrastructure, expertise, and availability of creative talent.

India’s Hero Cycles, the world’s biggest manufacturer of bicycles, established their Global Design Centre in Manchester in 2017 to access the talent – for R&D and design – and to collaborate with the World Class universities in the region, the local Government and Transport for Greater Manchester – to develop and demonstrate micro-mobility and e-bike solutions.
Pankaj Munjal – Chairman and Managing Director of Hero, said: “A presence in Greater Manchester gives us access to talent and testbeds – it’s a City Region committed to Carbon Neutrality by 2038, and one that’s taking action to hit this goal.

“This gives innovative companies opportunities to develop and pilot new products, demonstrating them at scale and gaining competitive advantage. Every time I am in Manchester I am excited and inspired by what I see!”

To find out more about Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership’s Economic Vision for a fairer, greener, growing economy go to

Pedal power and the cycle of success behind Greater Manchester’s green transport goals

Cyclist at the HSBC UK National Cycling Centre

Greater Manchester can support female entrepreneurs in boosting the UK economy

By Lou Cordwell, GM LEP Co-Chair and founder and CEO of digital studio magneticNorth; and Cllr Elise Wilson, GM LEP board member, leader of Stockport Council, and GMCA economy portfolio lead

The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship recently found that £250bn of new value could be added to the UK economy if women were supported in starting and scaling new businesses at the same rate as men.

Based on pre-pandemic research, it found that only one in three UK entrepreneurs is female; that fewer UK women choose to become entrepreneurs than in best practice peer countries; and that perceived bias within the UK venture finance community is a concern.

The review recommended an increase in funding directed towards female entrepreneurs; Greater family care support for female entrepreneurs; and making entrepreneurship more accessible for women and increasing support locally, through relatable and accessible mentors and networks.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies suggests that the plight of female founders has been further hit by coronavirus, with women more likely to work in the worst affected sectors, and to have served as primary care providers at a point when many children were being home schooled.

The good news is that work is already underway in Greater Manchester to address these inequalities.

We know that economic and entrepreneurial diversity pays dividends, improving business outcomes while supporting social mobility and opportunity.

Diversity provides different perspectives, fresh insight, complementary skills and experience. Equally, providing opportunities for more entrepreneurs to create jobs and prosperity is vital if we are to level up.

At the heart of the new GM Economic Vision is a commitment to tackling inequalities, with a focus on supporting more women in starting and growing businesses through a world-leading programme of female entrepreneurship.

We are committed to enabling people to reach their full potential through training and mentoring, encouraging diversity and inclusivity in company leadership through initiatives including provision of innovative finance.

We already have strong female leaders in prominent positions across Greater Manchester, but we know that there’s more we can do to inspire and encourage the next generation of female entrepreneurs.

Greater Manchester is ideally placed to implement measures that will support a new generation of female entrepreneurs, and is ready to take the lead nationally, supporting Government in capitalising on the clear economic advantages that would bring.

According to the Business Growth Hub’s (BGH) Inclusive Growth Report, of the 1623 data records captured, 23.9% of owners were classed as female owned. More than half (52.9%) of the individuals supported by BGH in Greater Manchester to start a business 52.9% were female.

Diversity is a central tenet of the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter, which includes a commitment from employers to take full advantage of the diversity and talents across Greater Manchester communities, invest in workforce training and development, and provide employees with an opportunity to work flexibly wherever possible.

The strength of existing entrepreneurial talent is evident in initiatives including Northern Power Women and the research conducted by NatWest/RBS in 2015, which showed Manchester’s female-led businesses contributed £124m to the UK’s economy and created an additional 3,300 jobs in 2015.

With only 1p in every £1 invested going to female-led businesses nationally, funding provided to female founders by GC Angels demonstrates that Greater Manchester is leading the way in dramatically helping to reverse shameful gender inequalities.

Supported by GM LEP funding, businesses with a women founder have raised £5.7m in total into funding rounds that GC Angels have invested into, 62% of all capital raised since 2018.

According to GC Angels,

  • Women in its funding portfolio raise an average of £444k
  • Businesses with a women founder make up 52% of its portfolio since 2018
  • Businesses with a women founder received 41% of its funding to date since 2018

Successful funding for female founders includes Culture Shift, which is giving victims of sexual harassment a platform to report crime.

As a result of £3m being made available by GMCA and the GM LEP, female-founded businesses have been able to access Early-Stage Investment through the Local Growth Fund delivered by GC Angels.

Public sector initiatives including Innovate Her and Go Digital are building an integrated pipeline of skills and talent among young women at our schools and colleges, while our five universities produce female graduates who form spin-out companies to commercialise the incredible potential of their academic research.

A statue of Emmeline Pankhurst now stands proudly in Manchester’s St Peter’s Square, celebrating a century of women’s suffrage. Diversity is part of our DNA and that has informed decades of innovation and awareness of the importance of encouraging young women into business.

We’re already supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Greater Manchester, investing in the next generation of female entrepreneurs, while recognising the significant number of women leaving the labour market due to Covid-19 and the female founder gap in the North of England.

Greater Manchester is arguably better placed than anywhere else to champion the virtuous circle that might be achieved if women were supported in boosting the economy, in turn providing jobs and opportunities for others.

The empowerment of female founders is an opportunity too big to miss and Greater Manchester is poised to seize it.

Find out more about GM’s Economic Vision for a fairer, greener, growing economy at

Cllr Elise Wilson, GM LEP board member, leader of Stockport Council, and GMCA economy portfolio lead
Lou Cordwell, GM LEP Co-Chair and founder and CEO of digital studio magneticNorth

SODA sets the scene for the future of digital and creative

Supported by Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership investment, the new School of Digital Arts (SODA) at Manchester Metropolitan University will build on the region’s rich tradition of digital, media, skills, technology and innovation.

On the back of recognition as one of Europe’s largest creative, digital and technology clusters, home to more than 10,000 businesses – from start-ups and SMEs to global brands – the demand for specialist skills and talents has increased sharply across Greater Manchester in recent years.

With a prolific heritage in broadcast and media production that started with Granada TV through to major investment in the likes of MediaCityUK, the Sharp Project, and innovation zones including the Salford Innovation Triangle,  Greater Manchester is a place where creativity and technology are jointly driving the next wave of innovation in the creative and media industries.

Addressing an urgent demand for skills in the sector and building on this reputation, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) is creating a new academic centre, the School of Digital Arts (SODA), which will nurture the future talent of the industry, readying them for the world of work.

The £35m school offers purpose-built facilities allowing students to become qualified in subjects including animation, filmmaking, photography, UX, games design, sound, media production and AI, and expects to produce over 1,000 graduates every year.

The school has received £14.9m in funding from the Local Growth Fund via the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership and Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Together they have jointly committed to investing in Greater Manchester’s digital future to support jobs, skills and economic growth.

Greater Manchester is the UK’s largest tech hub outside of London, and supports 86,000 digital, creative and tech jobs. With demand growing every year SODA aims to develop expert graduates who will spend part of their studies embedded within the region’s £5 billion digital ecosystem through live projects with industry partners in a bid to retain talent after graduation.

The School – which will welcome its first cohort of students in September 2021 – will be shaped and led by some of the world’s leading experts, two of whom have strong ties to Greater Manchester, where they started their successful careers.

Academy award-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting and Shallow Grave), who grew up studying in Bolton will be co-chair of SODA’s industry advisory group alongside Nicola Shindler. Originally from Rochdale, Shindler started her career in television at Granada Studios before founding Red Productions which has produced some of Britain’s most popular series, both filmed and set in Manchester, including Queer as Folk, Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax and international smash hit The Stranger.

Boyle and Shindler will shape the School’s academic learning and provide invaluable industry expertise for students along other members from organisation such as the BBC, Channel Four, Sharp Futures, Universal Music, Apple, HOME arts centre and Sony VR.

Lou Cordwell OBE, Co-Chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, and founder of Manchester’s magneticNorth digital design studio, said: “In partnership with GMCA, the GM LEP is proud to invest £14.9m of the Local Growth Fund into the School Of Digital Arts, a purpose-built facility for one of the UK’s leading modern universities.

“The Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy is our plan to deliver an economy fit for the future, with prosperous communities across the city-region and radically increased productivity and earning power. This project showcases one of the ways we can realise that vision: strengthening our creative, digital and media industries by generating the digitally skilled workforce of tomorrow.

“SODA reflects the scale of Greater Manchester’s digital burgeoning digital sector and ambition as well as our ongoing commitment to inclusive growth. As is the Manchester way, the private sector will continue to play an integral role in ensuring that the city region’s creative and digital sector continues to thrive and that drive a growth in opportunities for everyone.”

Professor Toby Heys, Head of SODA, said: 

“Our ambition is to become a world leader in digital arts, producing the next generation of creative talent which will drive regional growth in this rapidly expanding area.

“The involvement of internationally acclaimed media figures on our External Advisory Group is hugely exciting for us and will help to ensure that everything SODA does is attuned to the needs of our creative and digital sector.”

The arrival of SODA will be a landmark moment for Greater Manchester as the sector recovers and rebuilds from the disruption caused by Covid-19. The school will be a powerhouse for digital arts; driving ideas and innovation across all forms of creative content, and in doing so, future proofing a rich and long legacy of creativity.

GM LEP Co-Chair Lou Cordwell: My Dad and Tony Wilson inspired my civic duty to make Greater Manchester a better place

Digital entrepreneur, Lou Cordwell, became GM LEP co-chair in March 2020 and is optimistic that Greater Manchester can emerge stronger from pandemic, supporting UK economic recovery with a vision that addresses inequalities and green growth.

Digital pioneer, female entrepreneur, proud exponent of all that is good about Greater Manchester… yet determined to address the things that aren’t.

Recently installed as co-chair of Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, Lou Cordwell embodies the spirit of the organisation and the place, intent on driving economic recovery from coronavirus in a way that brings environmental and social benefits for all.

“I always say that if you were to pick anywhere to be during this crisis, it would be in Greater Manchester,” she says. “The calibre of the public and the political leadership, and the general willingness to collaborate and look after one another, means that we have the best chance of riding this out and ending up in a better place on the other side, a place that works for all our people and our planet.”

It was in January 2020 – just weeks before the first national lockdown – that Lou became GM LEP co-chair.

A board member since 2013, she’d previously served as deputy chair, SME representative and the lead for communications, digital broadcasting and Skills Fund.

2020 has presented unexpected challenges for the LEP, which supports business and local authorities to grow the local private sector, tackle major barriers to growth and develop shared strategies for the local economy to increase job creation.

But Lou remains optimistic.

“By nature, the citizens of Greater Manchester are incredibly positive, tenacious people,” she adds. “We’ve faced adversity in lots of different forms throughout our history. Whether you call it innovation, creativity, or entrepreneurialism, it’s just there, hardwired into our very ethos.

“So while there’s lots of this we can’t control about the situation at present, one of the things that’s amazing about our city region is that we do have a plan, we’re all united behind that plan, and there are really strong frameworks for public and private partnership that enable us to do things at a pace that other places probably find harder.

“I think we’ve got a really significant role to play in terms of the levelling up agenda, which is even more important than it was before. We’ve got an important part to play as an engine for growth.”

That sentiment sits at the heart of the new GM Economic Vision, which Lou has led on architecting. It’s a vision for the region’s economic recovery with an emphasis on innovation, green growth and addressing inequalities.

Acknowledging that economic and social value deserve equal weight, it includes measures to address the challenges facing female entrepreneurs, something Lou herself has long championed.

Awarded an OBE in 2018 for services to the digital and creative economy, Lou is founder and CEO of Manchester-based digital design studio, magneticNorth which was launched in 2000 as the internet was only just beginning to provide commercial opportunities.

After high school and sixth form college in Salford she studied economics at York University before embarking on a career in one of the UK’s leading advertising agencies. It was during this early part of her career that she realised the opportunities digital presented and decided to strike out on her own.

“I had no ambitions to run a business,” she recalls. “If you talk to a lot of female entrepreneurs, they have a default position that they need to be able to live with what they imagine to be the worst scenario before they take the plunge.

“What I couldn’t live with was being 65 and thinking, ‘I wonder would have happened if I’d just have given it a go?’”

With a raft of international and big-name clients, magneticNorth’s success has mirrored that of Greater Manchester’s digital sector, which Lou says only recently started to live up to its billing as the birthplace of computer science.

 “I remember having those conversations, saying, ‘we bloody invented the computer here… Why couldn’t the epicentre of digital innovation be in Manchester?’,” she recalls.

“I’ve passionately believed that for a very long time and what seems odd now is that was 20 years ago, and in the last few years we’ve seen that ambition starting to play out at a pace: there’s a real spotlight on our digital capabilities and on Manchester’s very particular flavour of digital success.”

By that, she means digital innovation that leaves no one behind and creates opportunities regardless of age, gender, social class and ethnicity. It’s a flavour which is evident across all the work that the LEP delivers, which has always been about levelling up by developing skills, infrastructure and opportunities. But Lou is particularly passionate about the opportunities presented by digital.

“For me, technology and digital has got huge transformational potential still,” she adds.

“We’ve got an opportunity to build businesses that didn’t exist a year ago and to reskill people who didn’t even know these industries existed, to change the way that we buy things, consume things, look after our wellbeing, learn, and to take the people of our city region with us on the journey.

“We have a chance to grow and scale our city region but to democratise that, to make that available to anyone. That’s still the really exciting thing about technology and the digital opportunities it affords.”

Leading a business is one thing. Leading economic recovery and growth across an entire region is something else. So why did she think it was important to join, and then co-chair, the LEP?

“Often those positions are taken by people who have technically more time on their hands,” she explains. “They’re semi-retired, or they’ve got a larger corporate career.

“I think it’s harder to be running an SME and to be involved in some of the work that we’re undertaking but at the same time I think it’s really important to bring a different perspective because we know the role that SMEs are going to play in economic recovery.

“If I thought about it then the reasons to be involved probably run pretty deep. Tony Wilson was a massive influence on me, a very big hero of mine. And for a lot of us from that generation, he imbued a sense of civic pride, he gave us a sense of responsibility to do something to help keep making the place better. And I think it’s that spirit, never settling for the status quo, that does make Manchester quite exceptional.

“The other influence was my dad. He worked for Trafford Council his whole career, could have earned a lot more money in the corporate world, but passionately believed you had a responsibility in your time on the planet to make things better and to effect change. We didn’t realise quite how much he’d done until he died, two months before he retired, and the number of people who came up and talked about the things that he’d shaped and the people he’d helped and made happen was startling. Anything that was in his gift to influence for the better, he did that, and he did that quite quietly and under the radar.

“My dad and Tony remain my heroes today and, like everyone, I continue to be heavily influenced by the moral compass of the people you looked up to as you grew up.”

Visit to find out more about the work of GM LEP.

The £1bn benefit of measures to encourage trade with India

Supported by Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, the Manchester India Partnership has backed numerous initiatives to boost business and cultural ties between the two regions, securing jobs and investment

The value of trade with India for North West businesses hit £1bn for the first time in 2019, according to analysis from Deloitte.

Working in partnership with the Manchester India Partnership (MIP) , the business advisory firm’s analysis showed that the total value of imports and exports involving companies from the country exceeded £1bn in 2019 compared to £887m in 2015.

Acknowledging the importance of trade links with India, Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership commissioned the Greater Manchester and India Strategy in 2014/2015.

GM LEP are members of the Manchester India Partnership and support its work both financially and through other activity.

In October 2019, GM LEP backed a delegation to India led by Greater Manchester Mayor and LEP board member Andy Burnham, and MIP representatives including Jo Ahmed, global employer services partner at Deloitte in the North West.

Speaking about the findings of Deloitte’s research, she said: “As these latest figures show, India has become a key trading partner for North West companies in recent years, overtaking some of the more established European markets.

“The opportunity for the region to export to India is now enormous, with British products often seen as best in class due to the heritage of our manufacturing expertise. We have already seen the creation of a UK-India Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO), providing direct dialogue about an enhanced trade relationship and working towards a free trade agreement.

“However, we have also seen a greater number of investments made by Indian companies in North West infrastructure projects, adding significant value to the regional economy and further strengthening the relationship between the two locations. Looking beyond the current pandemic, as connectivity continues to improve, we expect to see more and more of the region’s businesses explore options to partner with India in the coming years.”

Deloitte’s analysis study comes as the latest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) figures reveal that India was the third most active investor in new projects in Greater Manchester between 2017 and 2020, behind Germany and the US.

The 15 projects created 792 jobs.

Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the region has continued its commitment to strengthening ties with India. Last month, Virgin Atlantic announced the launch of new direct flights to Mumbai and Delhi from Manchester Airport, starting from December and January respectively.

The benefits of greater connectivity between the North West and India was highlighted in a 2018 report conducted by Deloitte on behalf of the Confederation of Indian Industry and Manchester India Partnership.

Among key benefits of building trade links with India are the country’s population – the second largest in the world – and that it has the world’s fastest growing economy.

The Greater Manchester One Year International Strategy (available here) was signed off by GM LEP Co-chairs Lou Cordwell and Mo Isap, and board member Cllr Elise Wilson, GMCA Economy portfolio lead, in October 2020. It highlights India as a prime market and global target for trade with Greater Manchester.

According to analysis, new routes to Indian centres could support the creation of an additional 2,000 jobs and unlock up to £400m extra in GDP for the North in the next five years.

Improving relationships with India is also reflected on a national level, with more than 800 Indian-owned companies established in the UK, creating over 110,000 jobs.

During the 2019 mayoral delegation, the MIP video was shown to hundreds of delegates in India to celebrate Greater Manchester’s existing links and showcase the city-region’s key sector strengths including digital, advanced materials, health innovation and green growth.

Manchester overtakes Cambridge to rank as UK’s most attractive city for tech investment outside London

Building on a rich history of digital innovation, Greater Manchester is now second only to London in terms of European tech investment. Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership has supported growth in the sector with initiatives to build skills and infrastructure.

Greater Manchester has cemented its reputation as the fastest-growing European tech city, with venture capital investment of £530m in 2019.

An increase of £153.22m on 2018 VC tech investment, it means that Greater Manchester has overtaken Cambridge as the UK’s most attractive city for tech investment outside London.

While the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global tech investment is not yet clear, Manchester tech investment has continued to thrive in 2020, in part thanks to the successful IPO of e-commerce giant The Hut Group, which has demonstrated the calibre of tech companies across the region.

The area’s rich heritage in manufacturing has helped to power the city’s growing e-commerce industry with other unicorns in Manchester including Auto Trader UK and On The Beach Holidays.

Increasing the pipeline of talent and skills available to support the burgeoning tech sector is a priority for Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership.

GM LEP has also helped to create the right environment to attract tech investment through initiatives including the establishment of the Manchester Enterprise Zone’s Airport City Manchester site, where The Hut Group is developing ‘THQ’, a brand-new global headquarters business campus.

Lou Cordwell, Co-chair of Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, said: ”Greater Manchester has a £5 billion digital economy comprised of public sector, private sector and academia.

“We really understand the factors and components parts that are needed to make a strong digital ecosystem and for individuals and organisations to come and thrive here.

“We see partnership as incredibly important to our future success and increasingly this is international with organisations that want to come here and be part of the next chapter of Greater Manchester’s digital story.”

Thanks to these fast-growing tech companies, the digital tech sector in Manchester employed more than 100,000 people in 2019 according to data from the Office for National Statistics; Tech Nation – the UK network for ambitious tech entrepreneurs; and job search engine Adzuna.

Yet the industry has the capacity to grow even more, with high demand for talent across a variety of companies. There are 3,690 IT vacancies across the city alone, with 4,235 open jobs across Greater Manchester.

Success story The Hut Group is the company seeking the most new recruits in the region, followed by TalkTalk and Sage. The most in-demand job in the city is for software developers, followed by NET developers and front-end developers.

According to Adzuna, the city is a key area for employment and those with the correct skills are well remunerated: the average IT salary in the city is £49,765, over £12,000 more than the average salary across the city at £37,197, according to Adzuna data. While data architects are among the best-paid workers in the city, having seen average salaries for this role increase 17.5% in 2019 to £80,567.

As with other regions in the UK, there is growing demand for cloud skills in Manchester as businesses increasingly put their operations on the cloud. Across the UK, the demand for cloud computing as a skill has grown by 22% from 2018 to 2019. One of Manchester’s potential unicorns, UK Fast, is one of the UK’s leading cloud providers with clients including and The Dean Trust and Chester Zoo.

Commenting on Greater Manchester’s success in attracting tech investment, Minister for Digital Caroline Dinenage, said: “Manchester’s tech star has been rising for the past few years and the recent success of The Hut Group has helped to cement the city’s reputation as an industry hub to rival the capital.

“These new figures show it is creating new jobs and opportunities, and I am delighted that some of the country’s leading tech talent are coming together to discuss how we can help further strengthen the UK’s reputation as Europe’s leading tech player.”

Dr George Windsor, Head of Insights at Tech Nation said: “New data on Manchester’s tech industry demonstrates how much the city’s tech credentials have grown and it’s great to be able to celebrate the successes of startups across the region. This event will be a perfect opportunity to bring together some of the best minds in the North West to discuss how the sector can help both the national and regional economic recovery.”

Fact Box

  • VC investment in all tech companies in Manchester reached $687.6m in 2019, up from $199.1m in 2018
  • There are 4,235 open tech vacancies across the Greater Manchester region
  • The success of The Hut Group IPO, which floated with a market capitalisation of £5.4bn, demonstrates the calibre of tech companies in the region
  • Tech businesses in Manchester employed more than 100,000 people in 2019 and these businesses are crucial to keeping up UK productivity in the face of Covid-19
  • The average IT sector salary in Manchester is 12% higher than non-tech salaries
  • In-demand roles include cloud data architects and software engineers

Case studies:

Tootoot and Stribe

When tootoot’s founders, CEO Michael Brennan and CTO Kieran Innes, decided the growing startup needed a new HQ in 2018 they looked to Manchester before settling at the Tech Incubator, in the city’s Technology Centre. The company, which provides the tootoot platform to schools and sports groups to allow students to raise issues anonymously and its sister platform Stribe which makes it easier for business leaders to support the wellbeing of employees, was welcomed to the northern city with open arms, and has received investment from GC Angels and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Tootoot’s 10 employees work across the Berwick-Upon-Tweed office and the Manchester HQ, though the majority are now working remotely. The pandemic hasn’t stopped the business however which has been pushing ahead with its new Stribe platform. After hiring two new developers and a digital designer last year, along with plans to add new sales and marketing hires to the team to help promote Stribe, the startup has achieved 81% year-on-year growth annually since 2016.

It helps that the company hasn’t struggled when it comes to new hires. One of the reasons to move to Manchester was to be part of the city’s growing ecosystem and take advantage of the highly-skilled talent in the region. Though Berwick-Upon-Tweed will be close to the founders’ hearts thanks to growing up in the area, a large city like Manchester offers more choice and makes it easier to attract developers. The local authorities in the North West have been particularly open to working with startups – Wigan Council offers Stribe to its employees, and has also received investment from the Combined Authority. The startup is having a positive impact on the local area too. It is working with the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter, a voluntary membership and assessment scheme to improve employment standards, and is drawing attention to the excellence in tech in the region thanks to its various awards including being named as one of the GP Bullhounds Northern Stars Winners 2020 and as a Tech Nation Rising Star 2020.

Michael Brennan, CEO at tootoot and Stribe, said: “I was attracted to setting up our HQ in Manchester as a result of the strong networks and excellent talent in the city. We’ve had tremendous support from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and local councils in the work we’re doing with tootoot to give children and young people a voice, and with our new product Stribe that helps makes it easier for business leaders to support the wellbeing of employees whether they are working from home or the office. As we look to expand over the next year, I couldn’t imagine being in a better place.”

Arctic Shores

Arctic Shores is on a mission to revamp hiring practices, by asking no questions and removing bias from the pre-hire assessment process. Instead, the SaaS HR tech company combines cognitive neuroscience with interactive mobile-friendly tasks for potential hires that allows employees to see beyond experience and use real candidate behaviour to make objective decisions. After launching in Manchester in 2014, the company recently raised $5.5m in its Series A round from Beringea and Candy Ventures.

Covid-19 hasn’t slowed down Arctic Shores, which expects to achieve 30% growth this year. It now has offices in London, Cologne and Singapore, alongside the Manchester HQ, which serve customers in over 45 countries including Kantar, Coca Cola, Siemens and PwC.

Though all staff are temporarily remote, Arctic Shores has hired 25 people to its now 70+ strong team, with plans to hire at least 10 more over the next 12 months. In particular the company is building out its engineering and customer teams to support its product ambition as it scales – it’s looking for JavaScript and Scala engineers with a passion for learning.

If its access to engineering talent that will help Arctic Shores grow, then being in Manchester certainly helps. Co-founders Robert Newry and Safe Hammad have seen the city grow into a formidable Northern tech hub, in part thanks to the access to great talent, a supportive tech community and a great quality of life. The company has great links with Manchester Business School, and is investing in future talent by offering work experience slots to students from local schools to try out software development. The entrepreneurial spirit of the city has helped Arctic Shores grow over the past few years and will be integral to its success in the future.

Safe Hammad, CTO & Co-Founder, Arctic Shores: “Over the last 10 years, Manchester has transformed into a thriving technology hub attracting businesses and talent alike, and is now home to several prominent tech success stories. Arctic Shores chose to headquarter in Manchester to take advantage of great access to talent, and for Manchester’s unwavering “can do” attitude that’s so important for businesses in their early stages of growth.”


Since 2011, Matillion has been flying the flag across the world as an example of the high-calibre tech that is coming out of Manchester. With dual HQs in the northern city and Denver, Matillion’s software empowers customers such as GE, Bose, Zapier and Vistaprint to extract data from different sources, load it into a chosen cloud data warehouse and transform it into analytics-ready insights.

So far, the company has raised $60 million from the likes of YFM Equity Partners, Scale Venture Partners and Sapphire Ventures. This growth streak has been sustained too, for three years Matillion achieved 100% growth year-on-year, and managed 90% in 2019.

Matillion doesn’t just impress its clients and the wider business community, the company was named as one of The Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 fastest-growing companies in Britain, but also its staff as earlier it received a Best Places to Work recognition for both its US office locations. This year alone the company has hired 78 new staff, and plans to hire 75 – 100 over the next 12 months with software skills, such as Java experience, and enterprise account management in particular demand – the company says these are pivotal growth roles right now. Around 77% of its staff are from the UK and Europe and it can take up to 54 days to fill a vacancy.

When it comes to hiring, there is always a lot of competition for software engineers because that’s what many other companies are looking for. But Matillion says its benefits from being based in Manchester, thanks to the steady flow of graduate and postgraduate talent from the local universities, three of which it has partnerships including Salford University, University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, not to mention the city’s vibrant tech community.

Matthew Scullion, CEO and founder of Matillion, said: “Famously the birthplace of the first industrial revolution, Manchester is one of Europe’s leading hubs for technology – the main driver of the UK economy. Much innovation has come from the region, including the first computer, called Baby, which is currently at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. Matillion is proud to be based in the region leading the way with digital tech.”

Keiran Innes and Michael Brennan, co-founders of Manchester-based tech company Tootoot