Manchester: Potential Magnet for Innovators and Start-Ups

Think-tank 2020Plus to help Manchester attract new creative businesses to place the city at the heart of the international innovation revolution.

Manchester is well positioned to become a magnet for young entrepreneurs – given forward-looking leadership that encourages consistent innovation, according to international think-tank 2020Plus.

Social futurist Mal Fletcher believes Manchester can have a bright future as an international hub of innovation, which is attractive to young entrepreneurs. He will be unveiling his vision of how that could happen to civic and business leaders at 2020Plus Manchester on October 2.

Fletcher, an innovation expert, will spell out the factors that could position Manchester for future success. These include the current growth in the internet technologies sector and the need to further develop research in cutting-edge areas such as nanorobotics.

The key to success, he believes, is to create an environment that will attract forward-thinking small to medium-sized businesses and help them scale up their reach.

However, Fletcher cautions that ‘innovation hub’ status can only be achieved through hard work and vision.

‘At 2020Plus we've studied the developments of innovation hubs in various parts of Europe and the US. Although Manchester is showing signs of attracting startups and entrepreneurs, its future in this area is uncertain.

‘The city’s businesses have something of an uneasy relationship with the Millennial generation (aged under 32), with 25 percent of this group saying they would change jobs tomorrow if they could. 

‘In the international examples we've studied, civic, business and third sector leaders got together to establish a culture of innovation in which creative people could flourish. They set out to engage young entrepreneurs who would bring in the creativity and risk-friendly attitudes so essential to growth. And that is a key lesson for Manchester.’

Manchester’s future young entrepreneurs have two basic needs that city leaders must meet, he believes. The first is the support and stability they need to grow. The second is a culture that will encourage opportunity, inventiveness and forward-thinking.

Leaders need to show these young entrepreneurs that Manchester is open to new business and social enterprise. And that comes down to more than just logistics and infrastructure. ‘It’s about establishing the right culture in business and civic life – which is the key role of leadership,’ says Fletcher.

He adds: ‘Innovation cultures quickly go viral. They spread rapidly, particularly among the Millennial generation, aged 16 to 33. These are the people who have embraced global digital communications. They’re eager to work with their peers on developing solutions and telling their stories. They’re looking for opportunities to collaborate in creative, problem-solving enterprises.’

Expanding cities hold unique attractions for the Millennial generation, including the opportunity to experience risk and collaboration, which are vital to personal and economic growth, says Fletcher. Good examples are MediaCityUK,and the growing number of software startups within the Manchester tech cluster.

Manchester could learn from the so-called Silicon Fen in Cambridge which has a reputation for innovation in the technology sector. While there are differences in scale with Manchester, it is the culture of the Silicon Fen, not its size, that is often cited as a reason for success.

‘It has a reputation for people who are helpful to start-up companies,’ says Fletcher. ‘And that could be even more true of Manchester.

‘Civic and business leaders in innovation hub cities recognise that young entrepreneurs are crucial to building the innovation cultures that guarantee a bigger future. Understanding the unique mindset and skills they bring to an area is essential.

‘When enough leaders really set their minds to build innovation cultures, we see the emergence of innovation ecosystems. And it’s then that the tone of a region changes, from one of benchmarking and maintaining the status quo, to one which brings meaningful change for the common good.’

Mal Fletcher, who is the chairman of think-tank 2020Plus, will be speaking to civic and business leaders in Manchester about ‘Engaging the Millennial Generation through Innovation’, at 2020Plus Manchester on October 2 at 7:30am, hosted by Endeavour Worldwide in Trinity Way.

© Copyright with Mal Fletcher

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