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Manchester glimpses tech revolution in ambitious industrial strategy

Greater Manchester in the UK has issued a progress report on its developing industrial strategy to harness technological innovation, in tandem with private enterprise and academic research, to deliver on stretching targets for energy, industry, and healthcare.

It said it will build on its various tech demonstrators, including its CityVerve smart cities project and Triangulum ‘smart green growth’ initiative, to become carbon neutral by 2040, at the latest, at least a decade before the default target for slashing emissions in the UK and Europe.

Greater Manchester will also build on its Landing technology enterprise incubator at MediaCityUK, the media district in Salford and Trafford, and exploit clusters of local expertise in cognitive computing, data analytics, cyber security, and cloud computing to raise productivity in the region.

It said it will call on further central government funds for green energy projects, and “make the most” of its existing science and innovation assets.

“The challenge is to spread innovation beyond these pockets to the wider city region,” it said in a new progress statement, reviewing the city-region’s work and ambitions as part of the UK government’s Northern Powerhouse, addressing industrial and economic change in the north of the country.

Greater Manchester also talked about raising the level of digital and transport connectivity, hinting at new public transport around electric and autonomous vehicles, with a 2040 deadline to achieve better connections and simpler travel. “An efficient transport system is a critical element of a strong economy, enabling people to take advantage of economic opportunities,” it said.

The region has already secured £243 million as part of the UK government’s Transforming Cities Fund, alongside inputs from local initiatives, including the Transport Fund and Earnback Deal. It said it will “promote digital infrastructure”, and explore “how to accelerate” the rollout of full fibre to 100 per cent coverage by 2033.

Meanwhile, its industrial strategy will consider productivity in the region, including how to build on the UK government’s announcement of £20 million new funding for an industry-led Made Smarter industrial-digitalisation pilot in the region, slated to provide support for up to 3,000 manufacturing SMEs to adopt and exploit digital technology to increase their productivity

As well, Greater Manchester wants to be the UK’s “first age-friendly city region”, in line with the UK government’s mission that people have “five extra healthy, independent years of life” by 2035, and to narrow the divide between the richest and poorest. By 2036, 14 per cent of its population, of three million, will be 75 and over – an increase of 75 per cent from 2011.

Manchester wants an additional 5,000 more 50-64 year olds in employment, relative to a 2016 baseline of 316,000, by 2020. Under the terms of its devolution bill from central government, Manchester has united health and social care, with an annual budget of £6 billion. The move allows for new treatments and technologies to be tested at scale, and new models of care to be pioneered.

All parts of England are working to develop individual industrial strategies by early 2020, in line with the UK government’s ‘grand challenges’ to transform the industrial and social landscape.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “To allow Greater Manchester to thrive and drive productivity and prosperity we need to make sure there are good jobs, a skilled workforce and businesses are supported, and this is what the plan is about.

“We want to use the strategy to build on Greater Manchester’s unique legacy of industrial ambition and creativity to create a thriving, digitally-enabled green city. We want to work with businesses on the strategy to create an innovative plan that improves the lives of everyone who lives and works here.”

Business secretary Greg Clark said: “To unlock the potential of areas up and down the country it is essential that key decisions and resources are taken from Westminster and given to our great cities, towns and their supporting regions.

“The Local Industrial Strategy we are developing will embody the unique spirit of Greater Manchester with a long-term plan to build on its exceptional strengths in areas including technology and research and ensure it is at the forefront of growing industries like clean growth and AI.”

Jake Berry, minister for the Northern Powerhouse initiative, commented: “It’s great to see such progress being made in the Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy. With government working closely together with businesses, local leaders and partners, we’re in a great position to boost economic growth and productivity across Greater Manchester and the whole of the Northern Powerhouse.”

Richard Leese, deputy mayor for the economy in Greater Manchester, said: “The Local Industrial Strategy is a unique opportunity to spread the benefits of prosperity across the city-region and we want to use this to deliver inclusive growth and quality employment.

“We have a proven track record in Greater Manchester of collaboration and innovation and using the opportunities of devolution to drive change and the Local Industrial Strategy is another way for us to do this. We want to make sure we put together the right plan for Greater Manchester and will be working with businesses, voluntary sectors and residents on it.”

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