What could Manchester’s Investment Zone status mean for its burgeoning scaleups?

With Manchester set to receive £80m in funds from the Government to support its growing tech hub scene, how might scaleups operating in Manchester already benefit from this added investment?

Well, on top of the additional funding announced yesterday, Manchester could also be in line to receive a share of an additional £100 million to make Manchester a global centre for innovation and research and improved tax incentives and specialist business support and investment in skills.

Manchester’s Turing Innovation Hub has already been lined up to receive some of this investment to give businesses greater access to their research on AI – something that could certainly help accelerate both growth and productivity. Just how this collaboration between business and research institutions/universities will work remains to be seen, but increased knowledge-sharing and support between the two will help drive innovation and bring people with much-needed skills through education into the local workplace.

But what about the other proposed benefits?

On the face of it, increased infrastructure wouldn’t seem like a huge deal for your average tech scaleup. But infrastructure could mean a whole range of things, from improved internet speeds and modern office and lab spaces to better access to existing office space and improved commuting times.

All of this adds up and makes Manchester a more attractive prospect for potential candidates, particularly those from the surrounding areas reluctant to make the journey into the city each day.  

How does government investment lead to more private investment for scaleups in these areas? Well, it won’t be news to anyone that the rest of the country is always playing catchup with London in terms of investment. This is mainly because the perception of London is a city with the infrastructure and talent to support a growing company – the risk seems lower to an investor. Perception can be a wonderful thing; if the perception of your city is bringing through talent with the right skills needed, then confidence amongst investors increases.

That’s the theory anyway – what is the reality? Well, Manchester was the UK’s first Tech investment zone and, in that time, has grown into the second largest tech hub outside of London – so it seems to work in practice too!

The Devil’s in the detail

So, on the face of it, all of this sounds great. Manchester-based scaleups are set to benefit from increased investment, favourable tax regimes, better collaboration and access to a skilled workforce. But, as with anything announced by the government during a budget statement, the devil really will be in the details.

With plans still in an early stage and with many other government proposals around their levelling-up agenda lying in ruins or heavily delayed, the effectiveness of these Investment zones will rely heavily on their implementation.

The success of the scheme will ultimately lie, however, in how successful it is at addressing the skills gap. It’s all fine and dandy attracting more investment and more startups into the area, but if the skilled workforce doesn’t increase alongside it, you create an even bigger skill gap than exists currently. So how collaboration works between scaleups and research institutions will be critical to making a thriving tech scene in the long term.

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