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June 15, 2016

Manchester Digital sets out 2020 digital roadmap for North West England

News: Trade association wants major shift in the region’s overall digital ecosystem.

By Joao Lima

Manchester Digital has today unveiled its action roadmap to help the North West of England develop its digital industry over the next three years.

The independent trade association for the North West’s digital sector has outlined five pillars in its plan; Infrastructure, the digital ecosystem, skills, leadership, and profile and promotion.

The areas of intervention were planned following research carried by Manchester Digital’s council last year to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the digital tech industry in the North, and what interventions are needed to support its growth.

In the infrastructure space, the association says that Manchester’s digital infrastructure puts it at a major disadvantage in comparison with competitor cities like Amsterdam and Berlin.

The body says it believes that devolution can be a way of opening up the infrastructure market in the region, leading to the emergence of new infrastructure providers and even to the construction of new infrastructures.

Manchester Digital’s digital ecosystem area of intervention is going to try to fight back Manchester’s industry fragmentation and duplication as the region grows digitally.

The association will improve its co-ordination, increased collaboration across different parts of the industry and more cohesion between industry and education to tackle the issue.

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It will also lobby for more collaboration between different parts of the industry to encourage knowledge-sharing. In addition, it will also bid for a simplified procurement process and help for smaller companies to bid for larger projects.

As the UK faces a digital skills crisis, Manchester Digital wants the North region to be able to overcome this issue by developing the talent pipeline and lobby the public sector to help them understand where the gaps are in the education system and how to fix them.

The body also wants to deliver Information Advice and Guidance (IAG) to schools and focus on the current workforce by keeping them upskilled with its continued professional development (CPD) programme.

In terms of leadership, Manchester Digital sees that there is a need to educate business owners on how to actually lead their companies.

According to its research, 50% of business owners in the North West of England are aged under 40. "There is a need for coaching and mentoring by those who have actually been there and done it," the company said.

To do this, the association will create a bank of mentors in all disciplines at all levels. It will then match them with people who are looking for help.

Lastly, for profile and promotion, Manchester Digital wants to help sell the idea that the region is a "great digital destination" by making stories of successful cases available and listing the digital strengths of the North West.

Graham Benson, chair at Manchester Digital, said: "The research we undertook last year has been refined and has resulted in us deciding to prioritise these five areas of focus where intervention is required – areas where we believe we can make the most impact.

"Now we must agree an action plan to ensure that we optimise the results of the intense interest currently being focussed on our region and work collaboratively with businesses, education, and the public sector to ensure we’re getting it right."

In line with Manchester Digital’s new roadmap, the association is also looking for new council member nominations.

These will run until June 16 and voting will commence on June 23, ahead of the new council announcement on July 7.

Once the new council is elected, it will oversee the work Manchester Digital does.

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