Small is beautiful, says report on economic recovery

Janine Smith

Economic recovery throughout Greater Manchester could be sparked by the region’s SME community.

A new report says the SME community “has shown an unwavering ability to seek opportunity, innovate and thrive in the hardest of times”.

It is just one of the findings in GC Business Growth Hub’s first ever annual review, ‘The Greater Manchester Business Growth Report’, published today (February 12).

The 53-page document provides vital insight into how the region’s businesses have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as understanding opportunities and challenges in the year ahead.

Figures quoted in the report from the Greater Manchester Business Survey 2020, show that the city region was spearheading innovation at a rate double the national average.

A total of 406 companies, 76% of those surveyed, had conducted innovation projects, whereas The UK Innovation Survey 2019 published last July found that compared with only 38% of SMEs nationally.

To continue to increase profit margins and unlock growth, the report also stresses the importance of considering economic, environmental and social factors when companies make procurement decisions.

Alongside digital innovation, Greater Manchester businesses have prioritised eco-friendly and sustainable initiatives.

The region’s low carbon sector generates £6.8bn in sales and eco-innovation is expected to accelerate further.

In 2021, the Hub also expects to see a greater number of firms introduce wellbeing and mental health initiatives as flexible working practices continue to grow.

GC Business Growth Hub is part of The Growth Company and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Janine Smith, head of specialist services at GC Business Growth Hub, said that Greater Manchester’s business community’s entrepreneurial spirit to “build back better” will help to see the region recover and rebuild in 2021.

She said: “Crises drive innovation and COVID-19 has been a crisis unlike any other.

“Our entrepreneurs have identified opportunities, shown great spirit and adapted. This is a positive sign for our region and it shows what we all know – in these challenging times our city region is still looking for ways to break new ground. Creativity, resilience and the spirit of innovation is in Greater Manchester’s DNA.”

The region’s businesses have also been supported by Greater Manchester Combined Authority via a £10m Bounce Back loans fund, and the Government’s furlough scheme.

A total of 43,000 Greater Manchester businesses also accessed funding to help them through the pandemic through government-backed loan schemes up to August last year.

Lou Cordwell

Lou Cordwell, chair of Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (GM LEP), said: “The past year has been an incredibly challenging one for Greater Manchester’s businesses – particularly our SMEs – but this report offers reason for hope.

“It has been inspiring to see businesses adapt and innovate in all sorts of ways across our city region. Greater Manchester is known for its resilience and creativity, and those traits will have been evident this difficult period and will be the basis of our recovery.”

She added: “Creating a culture of business innovation, across all sectors and in all parts of Greater Manchester, is a central part of our Economic Vision. In particular, businesses that have embraced digital and low-carbon innovation will help drive our national economic recovery and efforts to build back better.

“The Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership will continue to support and champion our businesses as they adapt to the massive changes brought on by the pandemic.”