The Council and democracy Manchester Digital Strategy 2021 – 2026

Theme 3: Future Prosperity

Where Smart People is about our residents and workers and Digital Places is about the city itself, Future Prosperity wraps around these two themes to ensure that the digital strategy truly makes a positive impact on the lives of our residents and the success of our businesses, in a way that is both ethical and sustainable. Future Prosperity as about making a strong connection between residents and businesses and the positive opportunities and outcomes that digitally enabled people and places will create. It sits at the heart of our inclusive growth ambitions.  

Firstly, Future Prosperity is about building on our strengths to grow the digital sector and digital ecosystem in Manchester and creating more good quality and sustainable opportunities for learning, employment, business and investment. It is about making sure that through Smart People and Digital Places that we can connect these opportunities to our residents, neighbourhoods and businesses. 

Secondly, Future Prosperity is about ethical and sustainable technology. It considers the positive and negative impacts of digitisation and how we might mitigate against some of the potential issues, alongside issues around good quality employment in parts of the foundational and cultural economy affected by the digitisation of work in ways that have tended to reduce jobs security and pay. It helps secure positive and incremental improvements and guard against the potential issues of low paid and insecure work. 

Future Prosperity case study – Manchester Digital & Skills Festival 

Manchester Digital is the voice of Greater Manchester’s tech and digital sector. Their community is made up of a wide range of businesses and they work closely with them to create the optimum environment for sector-wide success. They are independently funded through membership and represent the entire ecosystem with a wide range of business types, models, sizes and capabilities making up our community. 

Manchester Digital take direct action to solve specific issues and barriers that impact the sector’s growth and we provide a cohesive voice for the sector, ensuring that its views are represented at a local and national government level. They develop talent, drive innovation, share knowledge and help businesses to thrive. 

The Digital Skills Festival is one of the most important events in Manchester Digital’s calendar. Held here in Manchester each February, the Digital Skills Festival attracts industry professionals, educators, students, graduates and tech jobseekers as well as respected industry thought-leaders and innovators. One of the highlights of the event is the Talent Day which is the largest specialist careers fair in the North. Each year over 1800 graduates and jobseekers attend to find out more about the latest careers on offer at some of Greater Manchester’s most exciting and innovative tech companies. 40+ businesses attend and there are upwards of 250 jobs on offer. It’s the perfect day to find new talent, or if you’re a jobseeker, to take the next step in your career. 

Why Future Prosperity? 

There is an increasingly strong evidence base for Manchester’s digital strengths, highlighting how important Manchester now is in terms of combining its historic strengths in specific parts of the digital sector, including its digital talent pool, with new investment to support wider business growth, especially with start-ups and scale-ups. Manchester is recognised as the fastest growing “tech city” within Europe, having overtaken Cambridge for the first time, as second only to London for venture capital investment in tech businesses. Alongside this Manchester has also been ranked as the top UK city for IT professionals to live and work (CompTIA UK Tech Town Index, 2019). 

We know that a strong and diverse digital ecosystem is important for several reasons. Firstly in making connections between people and organisations that boost productivity, knowledge transfer and growth. Secondly, in supporting the emergence and growth of centres of excellence in specific areas such as cyber security or e-commerce. Thirdly, in attracting talent and investment into the city to support future growth. Therefore, making sure that the digital strategy supports and grows our existing ecosystem will be an important factor in our success. This will require consideration of both established networks and organisations as well as the needs of smaller start-ups or entrepreneurial organisations. 

In addition to growing the digital ecosystem, we also know that to be successful we will have to ensure that digital and technology is both ethical and sustainable. A number of partners who provided feedback in the consultation emphasised the importance of “ethical tech” and ethics in the digital world, an area in which Manchester already has significant experience through organisations such as the Responsible Tech Collective and Open Data Manchester as well as the emerging work of the AI Foundry initiative being led by Manchester Metropolitan University. 

Digitisation and digital innovation impacts on all areas of our lives, especially the future of employment and productivity. While in the digital sector itself productivity remains high, other sectors face an entrenched challenge of low productivity that may be disrupted by new technology and particularly automation. This may lead to the significant restructuring of employment in some areas, including job losses, leading to an opportunity to retrain and reskill workers so they are able to access new roles. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have a long-term impact on businesses and the wider labour market. Many companies are rethinking their need for office space and moving to higher levels of remote and flexible working, potentially leading to the employment of fewer permanent staff and more temporary and freelance staff. Anecdotal evidence suggests that travel-to-work areas, already weaker in the sector, have disappeared for some companies who may be Manchester based but now recruit nationally or even globally. This creates both opportunities and challenges for our residents and businesses. 

What will Future Prosperity achieve? 

Over the life of the Digital Strategy Future Prosperity aims to:  

  • Make it easier and more attractive to start, relocate or grow a digital business in Manchester. 
  • Strengthen the wider network of organisations and groups that support the sector in Manchester. 
  • Increase the number of high quality and sustainable job opportunities created.  
  • Identify new and future areas of growth and technological change that Manchester can benefit from.  
  • Make sure that growth in the sector in Manchester is inclusive and benefits everyone. 

By strengthening Manchester’s digital ecosystem, focusing on ethics and sustainability and supporting businesses and organisations to make a positive contribution to the life of the city we will achieve the following outcomes. 

  • Increased number of digital business births and relocations. 
  • Increased inward investment into the sector in Manchester. 
  • Increased number and size of networking groups and organisations. 
  • Increased number of job postings. 
  • Higher share of job postings filled by Manchester residents. 
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