17 March 2017
It is clear that the UK needs more than one engine; London is close to overheating whilst Manchester is perfectly positioned to capitalise on the wealth of opportunities arising from the digital economy.
Spending a few days in London at the Cloud Expo Europe with the UKFast team, and at various meetings, the buzz of the capital is infectious. Thousands of people attended the expo and came by the UKFast stand. There’s something special about London; so many creative, innovative and driven people in one area – but is it sustainable?
Ultimately, for the UK economy to thrive, we need to take the pressure off, rather than relying on one quickly expanding, overheating engine. And there are plenty of candidates for the job: Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds – or the Northern Powerhouse with key cities combined.
Manchester has the skills, the infrastructure, the resources and the travel connections; the devolution agenda is only going to improve this in my opinion. Andy Burnham launched his manifesto for Greater Manchester Mayor this week and he is a strong leader who could drive real change in our city.
We’ve a strong history of incredible leaders with Sir Howard Bernstein and Sir Richard Leese. Burnham could be the man to continue this legacy.
When it comes to tech and business, Sir Richard Leese has been vocal about our city’s role as a tech hub, describing how a critical element of devolution is having greater control over publicly funded skills within the city region and part of that is to have publicly funded education – including apprenticeships – giving us amazing opportunities to improve the city’s level of coding, computing and digital skills. This is something we are working towards ourselves at UKFast.
But all of this needs government support. We need funding for the north, spent and controlled by people in the north. I have long championed the need for local money to be spent locally. Westminster and London-centric organisations have enough to contend with without having to look after somewhere they’ve perhaps never been. It is impossible to properly govern somewhere unless you’re actively involved and living in the region – it’s like trying to make decisions as a CEO but never spending time on the salesfloor or with the team!
We’re helping to build momentum on this front with the development of TechMCR – a new organisation to drive the tech community in Manchester. Technology should be taking centre stage in the UK. There’s no reason why we can’t be a world-leading tech nation, we just need to use the resource we have at our fingertips – outside of the capital.
I am looking forward to what the future for Manchester and the North holds for technology and the digital industries, and I hope that the devolution agenda relieves some of the strain on London so that the whole country can work at full steam without burning out.