Smart Cities

by Councillor Elise Wilson, Leader of Stockport Council, Greater Manchester Combined Authority Digital Portfolio Leader

Industry View from

Greater Manchester: the UK city-region doing digital differently

Greater Manchester, with the Original Modern city Manchester at its heart, is leading a new era of digital transformation that will leave no-one behind.

You may know Greater Manchester for the success of its football teams and its role as the cradle of the first Industrial Revolution. It’s also the place where the world’s first stored-programme computer was invented.


In 2018 Greater Manchester was recognised as one of the top 50 most innovative cities globally, where hard work, energy and collaboration bring ideas to life. We do things differently here, and no better is this demonstrated than with the exponential growth of our digital economy.


Today, Greater Manchester is home to a fast-paced, fast-growing £5 billion digital ecosystem. Communities, businesses, academia and public services work together to create opportunity, innovate and invent, and growth benefits everybody. We like to talk about being the smartest city, and one that is doing digital differently – ensuring that the opportunities unlocked by new technology aren’t about economic impact alone.


While attracting the inward investment that will lead to job creation is important, our vision for digital is an enabling force that unlocks better health and social mobility. We are harnessing the power of technology to improve lives, using the opportunities it presents us with to help build a society where people are happier and more fulfilled.


Quite simply we want to make Greater Manchester one of the best places in the world to grow up, get on and get old.


Of course, commerce has its place at the heart of a digital ecosystem and we are building on the success of the biggest digital cluster outside London, with more than 10,000 digital and creative businesses employing more than 85,000 people. We’re already home to the BBC, TalkTalk, Raytheon, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, Social Chain, boohoo and Reason Digital. 

With innovation in Manchester’s DNA, digital success to date has been part due to a pipeline of talent from four top universities, world-class infrastructure and connectivity and a rich history of firsts. Talented people have always wanted to come here to work, attracted also by the city-region’s vibrant cultural scene. Indeed, Greater Manchester retains more of its graduates than any other city in the UK outside London.


What makes Greater Manchester unique is its collaborative ecosystem of digital start-ups and SMEs innovating on behalf of large businesses, supported by academics, with public sector organisations including Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) joining the dots between the component parts of our economy. Our role at GMCA is an enabling one – creating exactly the right environment for success in the digital space.


GM Cyber is a perfect example. The UK’s fastest growing cyber ecosystem brings together more than 30 organisations across the public and private sectors, and academia, to make Greater Manchester an emerging global centre of expertise for digital security research and innovation. This year we welcome an exciting new office for the government’s intelligence agency, GCHQ, proof that this approach is attracting new investment.


We want our citizens’ lives to be bettered, and for them to be empowered by the myriad opportunities a digitally fuelled city-region provides, including better health and a rich cultural offer.


Alongside this, businesses here will have the digital means and culture to fuel productivity, conscientious innovation, entrepreneurism and new industries.


We’re investing heavily in digital infrastructure, connectivity and transport and we offer a breadth and depth of expertise across digital and creative services, e-commerce, technology hardware and software.


We’re creating a digital place where innovators from across the globe want to tap into and a place where businesses already here can thrive.


Our ambition is for Greater Manchester be a top five European digital city-region, recognised globally for its digital innovation. We’re well on the way to achieving that goal.


We will soon publish our refreshed Greater Manchester Digital Blueprint. This document will set out a three-year approach towards that vision, and will be reviewed regularly in line with the pace of digital change. Our blueprint will detail how we want to empower people, enable innovative public services, ensure that all businesses are digitally enabled, encourage the creation of new digital businesses, and support Manchester in becoming a global digital influencer.


Get in touch if you’d like to receive a copy of the Greater Manchester Digital Blueprint and start a conversation about partnering with a city-region that’s determined to do digital differently.

To find out more, go to

Councillor Elise Wilson

Leader of Stockport Council and Greater Manchester

Public Sector Digital Lead

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