Greater Manchester research into 2D materials supports innovation in building materials which could help to reduce the global construction industry’s carbon footprint.
Concrete strengthened with graphene to make it more sustainable has been laid for the first time in a commercial setting, demonstrating how the carbon footprint of construction works can be significantly reduced in future.
Production of conventional concrete currently accounts for around 8% of global C02 emissions annually.
However, the amount of concrete required to meet construction criteria falls significantly with the addition of graphene – a 2D material first isolated at the University of Manchester.
A joint venture between the University of Manchester and construction company Nationwide Engineering led to the production of Concretene.
The addition of tiny amounts of graphene strengthens Concretene by around 30% compared to standard concrete, meaning significantly less is needed to achieve the equivalent structural performance, reducing carbon footprint and costs.
The additional strength also reduces the need for steel reinforcement, saving material and time on site and further promoting the green credentials of this building method.
Nationwide Engineering estimates that an additional cost of 5% for Concretene will be offset by the reduction in material to deliver an overall saving of 10-20% over standard RC30 concrete.
In May, Nationwide Engineering laid the first Concretene slab during construction of the new Southern Quarter gym in Amesbury’s Solstice Park – owned and run by military veterans and due to open in summer 2021.
Alex McDermott, co-founder and managing director of Nationwide Engineering, said:
“We are thrilled to have developed and constructed this game-changing, graphene-enhanced concrete on a real project.
“Together with our partners at The University of Manchester’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) and structural engineers HBPW Consulting, we are rapidly evolving our knowledge and experience and are positioned for wider industry deployment through our construction frameworks, becoming the go-to company for graphene-enhanced concrete.”
Nationwide Engineering has three existing five-year construction frameworks with Network Rail and two seven-year Government Crown commercial building frameworks.
With Network Rail committing to an 11% reduction in CO2 emissions over the next four years, graphene-enhanced concrete shows significant potential to help meet this target.
Supported by significant infrastructure investment – including £5m in GM LEP funding for the GEIC– Greater Manchester has become a global centre for research in the applications for graphene and other 2D materials.
Concretene: How it works
Liquid concrete sets into its solid form through chemical reactions known as hydration and gelation, where the water and cement in the mixture react to form a paste that dries and hardens over time.
Graphene makes a difference by acting as a mechanical support and as a catalyst surface for the initial hydration reaction, leading to better bonding at a microscopic scale and giving the finished product improved strength, durability and corrosion resistance.
Crucially, Concretene can be used just like standard concrete, meaning no new equipment or training is needed in the batching or laying process, and cost-savings can be passed directly to the client.
Dr Craig Dawson, Application Manager at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, explained:
“We have produced a graphene-based additive mixture that is non-disruptive at the point of use.
“That means we can dose our additive directly at the batching plant where the concrete is being produced as part of their existing system, so there’s no change to production or to the construction guys laying the floor.
“We have been able to do this via thorough investigation – alongside our University colleagues from the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering – of the materials we are using and we can tailor this approach to use any supplier’s graphene, so we are not beholden to a single supplier.
“This makes Concretene a more viable proposition as there is increased security of supply.”
At Amesbury, an initial pour of 234m2 of Concretene was conducted on-site on 6 May, with a further 495m2 laid on Tuesday 25 May to complete the concrete floor slab.
The graphene used for the pour on 25 May was supplied by Versarien plc.
Nationwide Engineering will manage and monitor the site during its fit-out and onward operation, effectively creating a ‘living laboratory’ at Southern Quarter to measure and evaluate the performance of the material.
This project has been funded by Innovate UK and the European Regional Development Fund’s Bridging the Gap programme as a joint venture between Nationwide Engineering, The University of Manchester’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) and Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering (MACE).
The GEIC is a £60m facility at The University of Manchester. It opened in 2018 and dedicated to the commercialisation of graphene and other advanced materials.
Graphene was first isolated at the University in 2004 by two Russian scientists – Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov – who subsequently won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010 for their work on this new material.
Apart from being incredibly strong, graphene is also flexible, see-through and highly thermally and electrically conductive, leading to numerous technological and engineering applications, from anti-corrosion coatings and advanced telecoms to new treatments for cancer.
Graphene@Manchester team on-site in Amesbury (l-r): Craig Dawson, Happiness Ijije, Lisa Scullion
Greener, cheaper concrete – how graphene can solve the building industry’s sustainability problem
The landmark flotation of The Hut Group has underlined Greater Manchester’s success as a platform for digital innovation and growth. But what makes the city-region such a successful home for tech unicorns and eCommerce giants?
In September 2020, The Hut Group (THG) achieved the highest value flotation of any British company since the UK government had sold the shares of Royal Mail in 2013.
Raising £1.88bn through the sale of shares on the London Stock Exchange, the flotation provided THG with a valuation of £5.4bn which has since risen to £7.3bn, with investors convinced that even bigger things lie ahead.
Whatever comes next for THG will be driven from its new headquarters at Manchester Airport, where the group is investing $1bn to develop two sites, including the UK’s biggest ever bespoke office project outside of London.
THG’s new landmark business campus, THQ, will span 280,000 sq ft and provide up to 10,000 jobs while ICON, its content creation studio, will be over 11.6 acres with more than 2,000 staff.
The Greater Manchester Digital Blueprint provided details of the fast-growing £5bn digital ecosystem in Greater Manchester and how the region is doing digital differently.
It builds on the sprawling network of digital and physical assets which make THG a shining example of end-to-end eCommerce success, with expertise, developed over 15 years harnessed to build, market, sell and deliver products to people across the world.
Turnover at the end of 2019 trading had hit more than £1.1bn and the company already employed 7,100 people. During the year ended 31 December 2019, more than 610 million visits were made to websites on the THG Ingenuity platform and more than 80 million units were dispatched using its infrastructure.
Matthew Moulding and John Gallemore founded The Hut Group in 2004 with a £500,000 investment and a hunch about the future potential popularity of online selling.
An accountant by trade, Moulding, THG’s Chief Executive and majority shareholder, had previously worked for John Caudwell’s Phones4U group, and suggested an eCommerce idea which was rejected, so took the opportunity to try it for himself.
The experiment started with the sale of entertainment products online but quickly pivoted to health and beauty product ranges, which appeared to appeal the burgeoning number of online shoppers, promised strong profit margins and could be cheaply delivered to the door.
Success in creating, buying and building brands favoured by digital consumers led THG to begin white labelling its eCommerce offer to major household name brands who needed help in taking their products online, including Zavvi, Tesco and ASDA.
A decade on, THG has every step in the eCommerce consumer journey covered via a range of divisions centred around THG Ingenuity its proprietary end-to-end eCommerce technology and operating platform.
The empire includes vast logistics warehouses, specialist digital marketing insight and expertise, digital content hubs where products become the stars of social media clips shared with millions, and even a portfolio of luxury hotel and leisure destinations where the world’s growing army of Instagram influencers can be tempted to support views of the latest beauty products.
Dotted across Greater Manchester, they include Hale Leisure Club, the Great John Street Hotel, King Street Townhouse and the iconic Art Deco 100 King Street, which was formerly home to the Midland Bank and Jamie’s Italian.
Amid concerns about logistics issues during the pandemic, THG did what any self-respecting eCommerce giant would do, sealing a deal with Singapore Airlines to launch its own airline, THG Air.
Matthew Moulding, CEO and Chairman, THG, said:
“Manchester is a great location for our HQ because of its world class infrastructure, access to talent and global supply chains. THG is both a significant business and employer in the UK, and particularly, in the North. Although we are currently rapidly building out global operations, we intend to significantly accelerate our rate of investment in the region, attracting and retaining the most innovative and inventive talent from across the globe.”
Prior to its flotation, THG had become known to tech investors as a unicorn, the term used in the venture capital industry to describe a privately-owned start–up company with a value of over $1 billion.
As the name suggests, unicorns are rare beasts, but Greater Manchester is home to no fewer than five. Living in perfect harmony alongside those unicorns are eCommerce giants including AutoTrader, Boohoo and Booking.com, and retailers including AO.com.
So just why has Greater Manchester become the land of unicorns and eCommerce giants?
According to a new report from London Tech Week and the UK Tech Cluster Group, North-West England is the “perfect breeding ground” for technology start-ups and scaleups because of its entrepreneurial climate, academic connections and growing investment activity.
The 12 Clusters of Tech: North West report details Greater Manchester’s prominent role in attracting inward investment and providing a platform for start-ups.
It says that the North West is attracting ever greater international attention, with companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Booking Holdings all building a presence, and singles out the homegrown success of businesses including THG.
Factors fuelling tech clusters in Greater Manchester and the North West include ‘tech talent and entrepreneurial spirit’, universities and the dedicated support available to tech companies, with particular specialisms, including Citylabs in Manchester, and GCHQ’s Manchester office.
The report states that the North West’s increasing confidence as a technology hotspot is reflected in growing investment activity too. According to Beauhurst, there were 389 announced and 502 unannounced tech investment deals in Greater Manchester alone between 2011 and 2020.
Of the 14 unicorns in the UK, two were founded in the North West and three have expanded here. Alongside THG, other Greater Manchester unicorns include AO.com, AutoTrader and Boohoo, while Crewe-based Radius Payment Solutions operates a technology centre in Manchester.
Interestingly, Greater Manchester’s eCommerce success includes a mix of relatively recent start-ups and more established organisations which have undergone successful digital transformation.
Notable among the companies to have undergone digital transformation is AutoTrader, which launched more than 40 years ago as a weekly print publication containing car sales advertising.
Headquartered in Tony Wilson Place, Manchester, AutoTrader evolved from an entrepreneurial print media business into one of the UK’s leading digital businesses.
Listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2015, AutoTrader has a market capitalisation of £5.85bn and employs around 850 people across offices in Manchester, London, High Wycombe and Dublin.
AutoTrader achieves 50.1m cross platform visits each month online and lists more than 470,000 cars each day.
Other factors underpinning Greater Manchester’s success arguably date back to the cotton trade.
Historically, textiles were central to Manchester’s industrial boom and the city was the prime location for weavers and cotton traders.
Today, Manchester, a mecca for cutting edge, innovative digital companies, has been referred to as a 21st Century Cottonopolis – a revival of its historic moniker. This follows the emergence of eCommerce and the success of its global brands including the unicorn Boohoo, Missguided, Lavish Alice and Pretty Little Thing.
In the space of 15 years, Boohoo has gone from a three-employee operation to a business with sales of £1.2bn and a 5,000-strong workforce.
As traditional retail has declined, Boohoo’s stock has risen and so far in 2021, Boohoo has acquired the eCommerce and digital assets of a portfolio of iconic High Street brands including Debenhams, Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis.
Another eCommerce success story in Greater Manchester is AO.com, which began when founder and Chief Executive John Roberts accepted a £1 bet from a friend that he could change the way white goods are purchased via the internet.
Similar to THG, AO.com developed an end-to-end eCommerce offering – including logistics and digital content production – which attracted the interest of third–party retailers including Marks & Spencer, Argos and B&Q.
AO.com acquired its own logistics business and opened an in-house video production facility which produces video reviews of appliances.
Today, listed AO World PLC has a market capitalisation of £1.48bn, employs over 3,000 people and makes 72,000 deliveries per week. It is headquartered in Bolton, Greater Manchester.
All of this activity supported Greater Manchester in cementing 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 continued to thrive in 2020, in part thanks to the successful IPO of THG, which demonstrated the calibre of tech companies across the region.
The strength of Greater Manchester’s digital and creative industries was cited in the Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy agreed with Government in 2019. This was reinforced with the publication of the Greater Manchester Economic Vision in 2021.
Lou Cordwell, Chair of Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, said:
“Greater Manchester’s rich history of digital innovation has provided the perfect platform for today’s tech and e-commerce success stories, attracting talent and investment and creating thousands of jobs.
“The Greater Manchester Economic Vision includes plans to further harness the opportunity that digital provides to deliver economic recovery and growth locally and on behalf of UK Plc.
“Supporting training, skills and innovation within emerging sectors of the digital economy will ensure that everyone can share the benefits that digital innovation can bring, while helping the UK achieve its ambitions for international trade.”
Through the Local Industrial Strategy, Greater Manchester aims to build on its position as a leading European digital city region, to maximise growing assets in cyber security and capitalise on the links between digital, creative and other industries in the city-region that feed innovation in broadcasting, content creation and media, as well as in eCommerce, FinTech and other new technologies.
MIDAS, the city’s dedicated investment promotion agency, has a strong track record of supporting and de-risking investment projects into Manchester.
Tim Newns, CEO of MIDAS, said:
“The pandemic has rapidly accelerated growth within the eCommerce and retail tech industry and with such a strong standing in this sector – as well as supporting industries and technologies including FinTech, service design and AI – Greater Manchester is the perfect location for ambitious firms.”
Being the largest creative, digital and tech hub outside of the capital, Manchester is home to a thriving community of businesses that sit side by side in the city’s digital and technology clusters, incubators and co working spaces, where they converge, collaborate and drive innovation.
New start-ups are joining that community all the time, while eCommerce businesses with an international presence understand the value of a Manchester base.
In January 2021, European travel giant Awaze reaffirmed its commitment to Greater Manchester with plans for 75 new jobs.
The continent’s leading managed vacation rentals and holiday resorts business has already recruited 25 new team members since starting operations at Dalton Place in October, but new roles in technology, revenue management, marketing, commercial and legal will see its city workforce swell to at least 100 by the end of next year.
Early in 2020, Greater Manchester launched the GM Digital Blueprint, setting out the next chapter in the city region’s ambition to be recognised as a world leading digital location. Building on existing strengths, Greater Manchester is now working to strengthen its digital talent pipeline and its world class digital infrastructure.
This can only make Greater Manchester more attractive to tech and eCommerce companies, with ambitious start-ups already following in the footsteps of THG, AutoTrader and Boohoo.
In November 2020, Beauhurst published an article revealing the Hottest Tech Companies in Manchester. It said the county of Greater Manchester is home to 1,468 high-growth private companies altogether, and over a third of these are technology and IP-based businesses.
Beauhurst said Manchester’s tech scene has also seen a general rise in the total value of fundraisings since 2014, with strong peaks of £400m in 2017 and £316m in 2019.
An increasing number of venture capital firms and angels with relevant domain expertise are now active in the area. And North West companies seem increasingly successful at engaging with investors in London, the USA, and beyond. Funding availability is one factor highlighted by Beauhurst.
And others are already following in the footsteps of the eCommerce giants and tech unicorns. Among Beauhurst’s ‘ones to watch’ is the eCommerce support business Shopblocks, which is effectively a one-stop shop for setting up an online store, and Clicksit, which has developed an app that allows users to track parcels, particularly when making returns to eCommerce companies.
Watch this space for the next generation of tech giants and eCommerce unicorns.
Why Manchester is the perfect location to build a digital business
For more than 250 years, Manchester has been creating and shaping the future.
Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and the first stored program computer, Manchester continues to be a place where creativity and technology are jointly driving the next wave of innovation.
Manchester has seen phenomenal growth in the number of online retailers based in the city region and it is home to the UK’s greatest concentration of eCommerce start-ups.
The city region provides access to specialists in front and backend development, data analytics and marketing and PR and its central location and outstanding connectivity make it easy for eCommerce companies to ship goods nationally and globally and the city; making Manchester the ideal location for eCommerce companies to thrive.
As well as being home to a fast growing £5 billion digital ecosystem, Manchester is officially the UK’s Top Digital Tech City, with ambitions to become a top five European digital city and global influencer.
Being the largest creative, digital and technology hub outside of London, Manchester has a thriving community of more than 10,000 digital and tech businesses from start–ups and SMEs to global brands including Google, Microsoft, IBM and Cisco.
In addition, the city’s globally recognised strengths in broader sectors including financial services, advanced manufacturing and life sciences provide digital and technology companies with outstanding market opportunities.
Boasting excellent connectivity 30–40% lower operating costs than the capital and an unrivalled quality of life offer (in 2019 The Economist crowned it the Best UK City to Live) Manchester is the ideal city to attract top talent from across the UK and the world.
The UK has the most advanced eCommerce market in Europe. According to the Office for National Statistics, the country’s eCommerce revenue amounted to £688.4 billion in 2018 a sharp increase on the year prior.
Greater Manchester is firmly at the forefront of the UK industry having produced five homegrown eCommerce unicorns (companies that IPO at or above $1 billion) including Boohoo, The Hut Group, AO com, AutoTrader and On the Beach which have been joined by world leading eCommerce companies such as Amazon, Booking.com and MoneySuperMarket.
Manchester is unique in that it offers wide market access and demand, specific technology strengths to serve eCommerce companies, a highly developed infrastructure, a skilled workforce, and a diverse and thriving ecosystem of companies supplying into it.
Manchester’s entrepreneurial attitude is reflected by the success of its unicorns is also very welcoming of fast–growing eCommerce companies and suppliers into its established ecosystem It is also a great base for them to internationalise.
Manchester is at forefront of the UK eCommerce industry with over 3,000 eCommerce and related companies based in the city. This includes five homegrown eCommerce unicorns and the greatest concentration of eCommerce start-ups than anywhere else in the UK.
Manchester’s large eCommerce companies are actively looking to partner and work with innovative companies who can add value to their business and ultimately their customers.
Manchester is rich in specialist talent and skills that digital and technology businesses need to thrive, with 86 000 people currently employed in the city’s creative, digital and technology industry.
It also has one of the largest and most diverse student populations in Europe, allowing businesses to tap into an emerging labour force.
Of those studying in Greater Manchester, 14 725 are enrolled in technology related courses as well as industry led apprenticeships and training programmes providing businesses with access to a wealth of specialist skills.
12 Clusters of Tech North West
Click here to access the 12 Clusters of Tech North West report by London Tech Week and the UK Tech Cluster Group, which includes a series of case studies.
Investment will support Greater Manchester’s ambitions to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2038
Energy regulator Ofgem has announced millions of pounds in funding for low carbon projects in Greater Manchester.
The funding is part of a £300m investment for over 200 low carbon projects to get Britain ready for more electric transport and heat.
It will support Greater Manchester’s ambitions to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2038.
Electricity North West submitted 11 successful proposals at a total investment value of £20.8m.
Greater Manchester projects are:
• Greater Manchester electric heating enabler (£2.5m): investment to support programme of reinforcement work and service unlooping to accommodate additional Low Carbon Technology connections arising from GMCA’s 2038 net-zero targets, including installation of heat pumps into social housing estates and high occupancy residential buildings.
• Heywood Birch area strategic reinforcement (£0.7m): laying 2 x 4km cables to increase network capacity and help facilitate new connections, including Electric Vehicle (EV) charging at Birch MSA and future low carbon technologies around Birch Business Park.
• Ancoats and Eastlands (£0.78m): investment in 6.6kV cable from the expanded Eastlands primary substation towards New Islington to increase network capacity for local economic development plans.
Electricity North West will also use the funding to upgrade monitoring of electricity substations and network reinforcement for EV charging hubs.
The benefit of Greater Manchester’s investment in advanced materials infrastructure has been demonstrated by international collaboration in next generation hydrogen-fuel technology.
The cost of hydrogen fuel-cells could fall thanks to collaborative research by Manchester Metropolitan University scientists and representatives of an Australian company attracted to Manchester by its strengths in advanced materials.
The work could increase interest in hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels and electric batteries for powering vehicles.
Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells (PEM-FC) are already being used to power hydrogen-fuelled vehicles, with early adoption underway in mass transport and fleet markets.
Like battery-powered electric vehicles, no carbon emissions are produced but the PEM-FC has the added advantage that range can be extended by increasing fuel capacity.
However, PEM-FCs currently rely on expensive platinum catalysts for oxygen reduction reactions that must take place in the fuel cell’s cathode.
Demonstrating the impact of Greater Manchester’s investment and expertise in advanced materials research, a team working at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Hydrogen Fuel Cell Innovation Centre has shown that metal oxide coated graphene is an effective alternative catalyst.
Working alongside Australian company First Graphene, Drs Yagya Regmi and Laurie King of the Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University, tested metal oxide coated PureGRAPH® materials as potential oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) catalysts.
Initial results confirm that metal oxide coated PureGRAPH® is an effective catalyst and has the potential to be used as a cheaper alternative to platinum in the next generation of fuel cells.
Both parties will now undertake a four-month collaborative project, funded by the Manchester Metropolitan’s Business Engagement Seed Fund.
The fund supports academic engagement with industrial clients to address real-world business needs. In this case it will support the development of new products in hydrogen and fuel cell technology.
The team will focus on further optimisation of the test devices and extended comparisons with current industrial catalysts.
The metal oxide coated PureGRAPH® catalysts were manufactured using intellectual property exclusively licensed to First Graphene from the University of Manchester, and provide additional opportunities including a route to supercapacitor materials.
Dr Regmi and Dr King are recognised experts in the field of hydrogen fuel cells and recently presented to the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group.
Dr Yagya Regmi said:
“These are very encouraging results. They demonstrate the potential for First Graphene’s PureGRAPH® materials to be used as catalysts in alkaline fuel cells. Subject to further optimisation, they could provide a lower cost alternative to platinum-based catalysts.”
Mike Bell – CEO of First Graphene Ltd, which has a base at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre at the University of Manchester, said:
“This is a great result that consolidates our position in the growing energy storage market. It showcases our capability as an innovative and technically capable company, willing to work with world-class research teams.”
Christopher Taylor – Manchester Metropolitan University – MFCIC ERDF Program Lead said:
“This is a great outcome. The hydrogen economy has developed at a rapid pace during the programme, and we’re pleased that FGR have engaged with us so positively.”
Tim Newns, CEO of MIDAS, Manchester’s Inward Investment Agency, said:
“This collaboration between First Graphene, an Australian investor and leader in the commercialisation of graphene applications, and the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Innovation Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University is a superb example of the attraction to international investors of Greater Manchester’s leading-edge science and innovation offer.
“It truly demonstrates the city-region’s unique ability to come together and unite world-class research and expertise to enable rapid transformation for carbon neutrality.”
Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre
University of Manchester partners in £500m fund to boost Northern innovation through spinout commercialisation
The Universities of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield are launching a new investment company to help boost the commercialisation of university spinouts and start-ups in the North of England.
The company, called Northern Gritstone, will fund spinout enterprises from each institution using external capital raised from a range of different investors.
These businesses will either be newly formed spinouts or ones historically founded by or linked to the universities.
The company also aims to be a key part of the Government’s ‘Build Back Better’ levelling up agenda and Plan for Growth in the North.
The three Universities initially came together in 2018 to create the Northern Triangle Initiative and secured a £5million award from the Research England Connecting Capabilities Fund (CCF).
By 2020 the CCF had supported around 20 commercially viable projects, substantially improving commercialisation rates across the three Universities, and generating a sustainable pipeline of University spinouts.
Northern Gritstone will build on this successful collaboration by providing significant start-up and follow-on funding to support the Intellectual Property developed at Leeds, Manchester, and Sheffield.
Northern Gritstone plans to raise up to £500 million from strategic corporate partners, institutional investors, and qualifying individuals. If successful, the financing will make Northern Gritstone one of the largest dedicated investors into the commercialisation of university science and technology related Intellectual Property in the UK.
Northern Gritstone will provide funding for a diverse range of companies across areas such as advanced materials and manufacturing, health and life sciences, artificial intelligence, and data sciences
Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at The University of Manchester, said:
“Northern Gritstone will play a key role in the Government’s levelling up agenda and help the North of England’s local and regional economies to ‘Build, Back, Better,’ following the pandemic and economic burdens of lockdown.”
The economic impact of the BBC’s move to Salford a decade ago is revealed in a report from professional services firm KPMG.
Underlining the strength of the digital, creative and media sector in Greater Manchester, it highlights how the BBC, through its presence and investment, played a role in cultivating Salford as a “creative and digital cluster” over the last decade.
Supporting the continued growth of the digital and creative sector is a priority within the Economic Vision for Greater Manchester. Digital, Creative and Media was identified as a global frontier sector strength in the Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy.
The KPMG report: An Assessment of the Economic Impact of the BBC (available here) was conducted before the April 2021 publication of The BBC Across the UK, which included plans to expand the BBC workforce in Salford beyond the 3,500 current staff and shift new services to MediaCityUK.
It found that:
• The largest share of the BBC’s economic contribution outside of London is generated in the North West of England (31% of the BBC’s direct GVA and 19% of its total GVA), reflecting the BBC’s significant activities in Salford. The BBC’s total GVA in the North West of £453m in 2019/20 accounted for approximately 0.2% of the region’s GVA in 2019.
• MediaCityUK is a prime example of the “network and cluster spillovers” generated by the BBC through its role in creating local specialist clusters of creative and digital talent.
• Employment in the creative and digital sector in Salford has since grown by 142%, from 6,310 employees in 2010 to 15,275 employees in 2019, compared to growth of 26% in these sectors across Great Britain over the same period. The BBC directly accounted for 34% of this growth, with the remainder being in the wider creative and digital sector, at least in part driven by wider firms clustering around the BBC in MediaCityUK and benefitting from BBC spending with them.
• This is reflected in the number of digital or creative businesses in Salford which has grown by 70% since 2010, from 565 to 955, compared to growth of 44% in these sectors in the UK as a whole.
• The latest BBC data for 2019/20 shows that the BBC now supports 3,048 direct FTE jobs in Salford and 159 indirect FTEs in Salford through supply chain expenditure.
• The report suggests a direct link between the BBC’s move to Salford and the relocation of other creative and digital businesses, including SIS, ITV, Ericsson, AJ Bell, Kelloggs and TalkTalk. Additionally, the University of Salford opened and new research space at MediaCityUK.
KPMG’s report was drawn from a quantified assessment of the BBC’s contribution to the UK economy in terms of GVA and a “largely qualitative” assessment of the role of the BBC in supporting the growth of the creative and digital sector, as well as the wider UK economy.
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