Innovation agreement to underpin Greater Manchester’s fourth industrial revolution ambitions

Andy Burnham, Lou Cordwell, Indro Mukerjee, and chris Oglesby with the signed Innovation MoU

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham struck a urgent tone as he signed a “landmark agreement” with Innovate UK as part of the city region’s ambitions to drive innovation and investment.

Burnham said the agreement will “help deliver a high-growth, high-wage economy powered by innovation”.

With the UK forecast to be in the early stages of a potentially drawn-out recession, the importance of accelerating economic change – and the reach and impact of a positive change – takes on an additional urgency.

Burnham told “Innovation is the answer to those issues, isn’t it? If you stay as you are you’ll probably find you’ve got to move backwards.

“Everyone’s gonna have to think differently, work differently. Be clever about what we do and how we do it as a way of navigating some of those challenges, but in the end, by doing that, you’re plotting your course to a stronger future.

“That’s true of an individual business, or an individual council or individual public body, but it’s also true of society collectively – you can’t let short-term challenges deflect you from your long-term path.

“The great thing about this city region is it has clarity about where it’s going, we have a clear vision.”

The Memorandum of Understanding between Greater Manchester Combined Authority, business-led body Innovation Greater Manchester and national innovation agency Innovate UK sets out how they will partner together to strengthen research clusters.

They will also work on how the development of innovation assets in Greater Manchester will be part of Innovate UK’s work in the years up to 2030.

It will support the Innovation GM 2030 Vision of the city region being “a leader of the fourth industrial revolution, known globally for the strength of its innovation ecosystem”.

But innovation is seen as a central part of the ambitions of the Mayor and his Combined Authority.

“Levelling up the country means rebalancing R&D spending so that regions can realise their potential,” added Burnham.

“Innovation stimulates sustainable growth, which leads to better quality jobs and increased wages, raising the living standards of people across Greater Manchester.”

Innovate UK chief executive Indro Mukerjee, who signed a similar agreement with Liverpool City Region last month, said: “Innovate UK is building strong regional partnerships across the UK to support local innovation and commercialisation.

“The agreement with Greater Manchester is a good example of that and our commitment to levelling up the UK.”

Mukerjee also sought to commit to meeting Burnham and the Greater Manchester team in a year’s time to assess progress, but the Mayor is looking for the partnership to deliver at speed.

Burnham said: “One year off my 16 year journey to net zero is a big amount of time. We have to move and we have to accelerate.”

“I hope in a year’s time we have a higher degree of clarity about where the opportunities lie, and therefore our businesses would all start zoning in on those opportunities, and the pace of change towards net zero and the pace of innovation is picking up even more.”

Greater Manchester wants “science and innovation [to] sit side-by-side with sport and culture at the heart of GM’s global brand”.

However Innovation GM believes the city region “is not yet a ‘go-to’ destination for international science and innovation investment”.

Through the business-led organisation, Greater Manchester is pioneering an approach to strengthening and broadening its innovation ecosystem of entrepreneurs and business, universities, local and national government, and funding providers and investors.

Greater Manchester was one of three areas in the country chosen to develop an Innovation Accelerator. Launched as part of the Levelling Up White Paper, Innovation Accelerators will support businesses and research in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and Glasgow city-region with a share of £100m of Government funding.

Greater Manchester’s Innovation Plan outlines how sustainable growth powered by innovation could deliver a £3.8bn economic benefit and over 100,000 jobs across Greater Manchester.