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Crowdsourced digital action plan to take Greater Manchester to the top

An innovative crowdsourced action plan and an alliance with Digital Catapult aims to help Greater Manchester reach its ambition of becoming a world-leading city region by 2020.

The first digital summit held back in July brought together over 200 experts from the digital and tech community across Greater Manchester who were challenged to develop action plans across a number of work-streams that would deliver social, as well as economic benefits to the region.

Unveiled today at Greater Manchester’s second digital summit, the plans look at giving young people the skills they need to get good jobs, making public services more efficient, reducing social exclusion, giving start-up businesses the support they need to grow, improving infrastructure, and ensuring Greater Manchester is able to capitalise on innovations and developments that will improve people’s lives.

The plans will now be considered for adoption by the Combined Authority who will use the recommendations to drive forward Greater Manchester’s ambition to become the UK’s leading digital city region, outside of the capital. The first policy area to receive treatment of this kind, it’s this unique approach that helps sets Greater Manchester’s digital ambitions apart.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Greater Manchester famously likes to do things differently and this is exactly what we are doing when it comes to building our digital future. When I got elected as mayor, I asked the digital and tech community here to help me write a plan that will help us achieve our goal to be the UK’s leading digital city region. Today they are reporting back and are delivering exciting proposals that will take Greater Manchester to the next stage of our digital journey. By crowdsourcing our plan, Greater Manchester is also doing politics differently and driving real change from the bottom up.

“Our vision should be to make Greater Manchester a digital city region with a difference. For me that means using digital and tech to give young people the skills they need to access the many well-paid digital jobs we have, using tech innovations to improve our health and social care services, increasing diversity in the digital sector and opening up opportunities to all, reducing loneliness and isolation for older people, updating our infrastructure, and supporting digital start-ups to become bigger businesses.

“I’m hugely impressed with the ideas that have been put forward so far. These will now form the basis of a digital strategy with a difference – one that will make people’s lives better, and which has been put together from the ground up using the knowledge and experience of experts in the sector. Our approach is what makes Greater Manchester different; this is what sets us apart.”

Combined Authority makes strategic alliance with Digital Catapult

One of today’s key announcements was Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s strategic partnership with the UK’s national digital research and development agency, Digital Catapult.

Joining forces with Digital Catapult will enable Greater Manchester to improve its digital infrastructure – for example providing better, free public wifi and 5G mobile data provision. Local businesses will be supported to improve their digital capabilities, increase their productivity, and drive economic growth. Plans are also in place to develop a commissioning platform that will allow larger companies to throw out challenges and opportunities for smaller, specialist tech companies.

Dr Jeremy Silver, CEO Digital Catapult said: "Helping companies to adopt digital technologies more rapidly is a key driver to increasing productivity and competitiveness. Digital Catapult works with large businesses and small start-ups to help accelerate their use of digital.

“We create the facilities and the programmes that can stimulate new markets and transform existing businesses. We are delighted to be collaborating with GMCA in this innovative programme that can bring acceleration to the digital potential of the Northwest. Encouraging innovation is key to helping businesses become global leaders."

A new online system - Bridge GM - will help young people connect with skills and jobs

Young people are also being given a helping hand. A new online system – – designed to improve careers experiences for young people, raise their aspirations, and enable them to seize the opportunities available in Greater Manchester’s fast-growing tech sector.

Bridge GM will help build better links between schools, colleges and local businesses – not just with creative digital agencies, but across all sectors reliant on digital skills and infrastructure, including finance, retail and manufacturing.

From mentoring to providing first-class work experience opportunities, employers can use the website to get involved in different ways, and in a manner that best suits them. In return, they will be helping to create a steady stream of school-leavers that are work-ready with the skills employers need.

Greater Manchester’s lead for Skills, Employment and Apprenticeships, Cllr Sean Anstee, said: “We need to take action now to equip our young people with desirable skills and provide employers with a highly-skilled pool of home-grown digital talent.

“Bridge GM aims to provide every young person with at least one meaningful encounter with an employer in every year they’re in compulsory education. I urge employers from businesses large and small to visit the website and get involved.”

Upcoming projects in the Greater Manchester digital pipeline include explorations for 5G mobile data capability, the rollout of superfast broadband across the region, plans for a Cyber Innovation Centre, and developing digital technologies to support fully joined-up public services.

Today’s event also kick-started discussions around what a world-leading century digital city region should look like, and how progress against such an ambition should be measured.

Article Published: 14/12/2018 09:49 AM