You are on page 1of 32

Provocation 11: September 2009

Original Modern
Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth
By Charles Leadbeater
Foreword 4
Introduction: taking the city at its word 5
Part 1: Setting a new level of ambition 6
Part 2: The world is changing around you 8
Part 3: The new innovation agenda 10
Part 4: What has been achieved to date is not enough 13
Part 5: Total innovation 15
Part 6: People 17
Part 7: A culture of innovation 23
Conclusion: Original Modern, Again 28
Endnotes 30

NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. Our aim is to
transform the UK’s capacity for innovation. We invest in early-stage companies, inform
innovation policy and encourage a culture that helps innovation to flourish.
NESTA’s Provocations are regular extended essays by leading thinkers that showcase
thought-provoking work on innovation. The views are those of the author and do not
necessarily represent those of NESTA. If you would like to comment on this Provocation please

The UK’s cities face a stark challenge. Reinventing themselves to face increased global
competition, seizing the opportunities of new industries and tackling persistent social
issues would be a tough enough agenda at the best of times. But today, they must do
this in the teeth of a severe recession that has accelerated the decline of established
businesses and threatened the rise of new ones.

Manchester offers an important example of how UK cities can harness innovation to

thrive in the economy of the 21st century: in the last decade, it has grown in size and
increased in prosperity. But as this report shows, its future prosperity depends on its
ability to continue to innovate. What is more, this innovation will need to take new
forms, including strengthening local networks, linking the creative sector to the wider
economy, and tackling social challenges.

NESTA has worked intensively in Manchester in recent years, and is proud to have
supported many of the initiatives dedicated to keeping Manchester at the forefront
of innovation, such as the Manchester Commission for the New Economy and the
Manchester Independent Economic Review. This report draws on some of the insights
gained from this work, and the lessons of NESTA’s work elsewhere in the UK, to offer a
vision of what an innovative future for Manchester might look like.

Jonathan Kestenbaum
Chief Executive, NESTA

September, 2009

4 Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth

Introduction: taking the city at its word

Manchester’s aspiration, set out by its driven ten years of growth in the city. This
civic leaders, is to be an internationally new wave of innovation will, however,
renowned city of innovation. have to take new forms. Where much of
Manchester’s success from the late nineties
Manchester presents itself as the original onwards has been based on physical
modern city, with its own confident take renewal, property development and the
on what it means to be cutting edge. burgeoning retail sector, the next ten years
Tom Bloxham, chair of the property will require innovative thinking in new
development company Urban Splash and areas.
the Manchester International Festival, both
representative of this aspiration to original The report highlights the importance of
modern thinking, says Manchester needs building economic and social networks
to become a city of ideas and creativity within the city, and of taking advantage of
where it was once a home to cotton mills Manchester’s enviable creative industries
and warehouses. The strategy to make to encourage innovation across the
Greater Manchester the UK’s first fully- economy. Manchester plays host to more
fledged city-region underlines the social businesses in the creative industries, in
dimension to this challenge: it has to work sectors from computer games and software
for all of the city’s residents, not just an to radio, television and advertising, than
elite. As the Greater Manchester Strategy all northern cities put together. These
‘Prosperity for All’ puts it: businesses are a vital source of innovation
for the whole of the economy.
“We will secure our place as one
of Europe’s premier city-regions, Likewise, it argues the case for using social
synonymous with creativity, culture, innovation and new ways of delivering
sport and the commercial exploitation of public services to tackle the challenges
a world-class knowledge base.”1 of education, skills and worklessness in
the city. Manchester’s forward-looking
This report takes Manchester at its word governance structure, bringing together
and examines what would need to be done the ten local authorities that cover the
over the next decade and more for the city city-region, offers a strong foundation for
to make good this claim to be a distinctive, innovative social solutions.
socially inclusive, entrepreneurial city of
innovation. Combining the power of networks
and ambitious innovation in the social
To do this, Manchester needs to build on and public spheres with Manchester’s
the successes of the past decade, taking inherent strengths offers a compelling and
advantage of the confidence that has innovative vision for Manchester’s future.

Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth 5

Part 1: Setting a new level of ambition

As the groundbreaking Manchester Leeds, Birmingham and Liverpool.

Independent Economic Review Instead it must compare itself with
shows, Manchester is well on the way successful second cities around the world:
to becoming the UK’s second city. Melbourne, Barcelona, Lyon, Osaka,
Manchester’s impressive physical Shanghai. By that measure Manchester
reconstruction since the IRA bomb of still has a long way to go.
1996 has given the city the opportunity
to break a savage cycle of economic Perhaps the most instructive comparison
and social disinvestment. GVA has is with Milan, also home to two world-
grown 5.8 per cent per annum between renowned football teams. Milan is an
1995 and 2004.2 It has added 32,100 to ancient international financial centre,
its population between 1997 and 2007, set within one of the most successful
created over 50,000 jobs3 and attracted economic regions in Europe, home
£2 billion in private investment.4 The to some of Italy’s largest industrial
city-region is a viable base for a mass companies as well as about 750,000
of skilled, knowledge-based jobs, in small, highly networked, export oriented,
a diversified economy with strengths innovative small businesses.5 However,
in life sciences and digital media, Milan is in the top ten European cities
legal and business services. The local according to GDP per capita, while
manufacturing sector is nothing if Manchester is only the 25th.6 Lombardy is
not hardy. Manchester is home to also home to a mass of social and public
world-class organisations in sport and policy innovation. The region has 5,200
academia, high and popular culture. voluntary associations, social cooperatives
The city is recognised as one the best and non-profit organisations, the highest
conference and business centres in concentration in Italy. The regional
Europe. People are voting with their government finances family associations
feet, as evidenced by the rise in the to create services to support families and
city’s population. Manchester is the it provides individual budgets for older
main city outside London with the people to commission their own care.
potential to increase its long-term It recently followed a Swedish policy in
growth rate. There is much to build funding parents to find non-state forms
upon. of schooling, creating a more diversified
education system. Lombardy’s health
It is a sign of Manchester’s recent system is one of the most effective in
achievements that it must adopt different Europe: patients travel from all over Italy
yardsticks to measure its future efforts. to be treated in the region’s hospitals.
Manchester must widen its horizons Milan is at the heart of a region that has a
beyond a parochial competition with well-developed recipe for economic, social

6 Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth

and public policy innovation. Manchester The city-region has to accelerate and
still falls short of Milan’s standard and the deepen innovation to move ahead.8
city still lags many cities against which it
would seek to be compared, measured on
GDP per capita.7

Closing the gap with places like Milan

will require new thinking and rapid
learning in practice. The future has to
be Manchester’s focus, rather than its
inspirational Victorian past. The recipe
that has propelled Manchester’s renewal
over the past decade is unlikely to be
as effective in the decade to come.
The emphasis has to shift from physical
infrastructure and buildings, to people
and culture, from inputs to outcomes.
The Manchester economy can draw
on a reservoir of skills but it is neither
productive nor entrepreneurial enough: it
creates smaller businesses at a much lower
rate than the UK as a whole and London
in particular. Making more productive
and entrepreneurial use of Manchester’s
assets and skills will depend on how
they are connected and combined.
Manchester’s pockets of excellence
and entrepreneurship are too often
isolated and disconnected. The city’s
recent success has been built on a highly
successful public-private collaboration
especially focused on the city centre’s
physical renewal. That collaboration
will have to take new forms to take
Manchester forward.

Before focusing on what Manchester

should do, it’s worth setting out why it
will not be enough to rely on what has
been achieved to date. If Manchester just
sustains the pace of innovation of the last
decade it will at best maintain its position.

Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth 7

Part 2: The world is changing around you

Manchester did better than most in well above its weight in the creative
riding the boom of the last decade, industries. Although the city hosts 3
making lasting improvements to its per cent of all businesses in Britain, it
infrastructure, physical fabric and, has 7 per cent of all advertising firms,
as important, to its sense of self- 6 per cent of all radio and television
confidence. Yet Manchester’s economy companies, 4 per cent of software and
is built on ever-shifting foundations, computer game companies, and 4 per
and not just because the recession cent of architecture firms. In fields like
will leave property and retailing advertising, software, radio and television,
subdued. Virtually every sector that Manchester has more creative businesses
the Manchester economy relies upon than other northern cities put together.9
faces far-reaching restructuring that Its strength in Knowledge Intensive
will lead to uncertainty over future Business Services like consultancy, legal
investment and strategy. and professional services mirrors its
importance in the creative industries.10
Financial services, which account for a Together, these industries employ 6 per
sixth of employment in the city-region, cent of Manchester’s workforce.11
and which have provided much of
Manchester’s growth in skilled jobs, are Yet Media City will start up just as most
facing a period of painful retrenchment, media businesses are searching, with
with tighter regulation and lower growth. varying degrees of desperation, for
new business models in the face of a
Manchester is redeveloping its strength recession-induced slump in advertising
in media through the Media City and the disruptions the web has brought
initiative at Salford Quays and the Sharp to media business models.
project, which together should take
employment in creative, cultural and The life sciences industry, which
media industries over the 100,000 mark. employs about 200,000 in the city-
NESTA research shows that Manchester region and is central to its creation
is a nationally significant hub for several of value, faces tighter regulation
creative sectors, including Architecture, of prices and quality; more intense
Advertising, Software, Computer Games competition from low-cost sources of
and Electronic Publishing, and Radio and supply; disruptive and uncertain genetic
TV. New research has demonstrated that technologies; costly R&D pipelines that
this cluster is nationally distinctive and have become less productive. All over
includes a different and wider range of the world pharmaceutical companies
creative services than other cities in the are restructuring how they innovate
North of England. Manchester punches and where they produce; established

8 Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth

organisational models are being
challenged and rethought. Pipeline
models of innovation are being replaced
by more open, networked, international

Public services, which account for

more than 40 per cent of the regional
economy, will be under more intense
pressure to reform and innovate as central
government squeezes spending to pay off
its debts.

Manufacturing, which employs about

185,000 people, almost 12 per cent of
the region’s workforce, will continue to be
subject to near-continual restructuring.

The lesson is that any region that stands

still and loses touch with the needs of its
businesses will fall behind. Manchester
may well be able to respond to each
and all of these challenges. But to do so
will require more innovation, creativity
and improvisation, across the public and
private sectors. There is no room for
complacency. Even the most successful
innovation systems are adapting in the
face of change to avoid becoming rigid
and inward-looking.12

Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth 9

Part 3: The new innovation agenda

Manchester’s efforts to promote the Daresbury campus; AstraZeneca’s life

innovation will not be enough in the sciences activity in Macclesfield; Shell’s
future because innovation is being facility in Wythenshaw; world-class
organised in new ways. Manchester centres of excellence in football
needs to lead with an innovation and cycling.
strategy based on an understanding
of innovation that is tailored for the Yet developments both in the theory
times. If Manchester’s leaders rely on and practice of innovation cast doubt on
approaches to innovation fashioned whether the ‘special-people-in-special-
more than a decade ago they will be places’ model will be enough to make a
out of kilter with developing corporate city successful in future, especially one
strategies. that aspires to prosperity for all.

Innovation is traditionally regarded as Innovation is rarely linear and sequential.

a process that involves special people Ideas usually develop through a highly
working in special places – scientists, collaborative and interactive process,
designers, inventors and researchers – involving exchanges between inventors,
who transmit their ideas down a pipeline developers, commercial companies and
to a waiting audience of consumers. To users. In science most research is highly
get more innovation, a city or a company collaborative and cross-disciplinary.
needs more and better special people In creative and culture industries new
working in more and better special places: products are often developed through
R&D labs, creative quarters, studios. This collaboration between designers and
approach was crystallised for cities by manufacturers, retailers and consumers.
Richard Florida in his account of the rise Collaboration will become ever more
of the creative class, the bohemians who critical to innovation, and collaboration
would help create the culture that would across sectors – between people with
in turn make a city attractive to service different skills – will become especially
sector knowledge workers. On this score important.
Manchester has done well, especially
compared to other English cities, That collaboration will be increasingly
attracting knowledge-based industries international in scope. A city that seeks
and jobs around a revived inner city core, to make its name for innovation has to
whose population has grown by 300 per be good at attracting talent, absorbing
cent since 1990.13 Manchester has world- ideas, making connections and seeking
class centres of knowledge where very out partners. It must be highly connected
special people do special things: labs in to flows of people and ideas that circulate
the University of Manchester; around the world. High-performing

10 Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth

firms in terms of innovation and sales makes it harder for innovation to spread
growth are more likely to be engaged in across their supply chains.16
international knowledge sourcing than
their under-performing counterparts. Innovation does not always come from
High-performing firms also purchase a boffins and the supply side. Demand
larger percentage of the purchased inputs plays a critical role in innovation,
for innovation activities from overseas especially in services, cultural and creative
sources, and also act as a more frequent industries, pulling through new ideas.
source of knowledge for companies Sophisticated and lead consumers,
outside the UK. Sourcing international with demands ahead of the rest of the
knowledge and engaging in a process market, are vital to spur innovation.
of continuous innovation enables small Firms often innovate only because
firms to stay ahead of the competition.14 their most adventurous consumers alert
To be out of those flows is to be in an them to new opportunities, adapting
innovation backwater. Innovation hot or modifying products, exploring new
spots in India and China will play a uses. Where Manchester has avid and
growing role. Finland, which in the 1980s demanding consumers – football and
pioneered the development of a tightly popular music – it has produced great
connected, state-led national innovation products. Manchester’s strength in the
system, is now trying to adopt more open 19th century was not just built on its
and networked approaches to innovation. production of cotton but its position as a
While Manchester has several institutions marketplace, connected to sophisticated
with impressive international brands, demand as well as capable supply.17 It
among them the football clubs and the will be increasingly difficult for a city to
university, as well as its own international lead in innovation unless it has access
airport, on other counts Manchester is still to innovation-hungry, venturesome
too parochial. The more internationally consumers.
connected an organisation is the more
likely it is to learn and innovate, setting Innovation can be social and public as
itself high standards and drawing in ideas well as technological and commercial. Not
from more sources. In the 19th century, all innovation involves a new technology;
Manchester was at the heart of innovation it can involve the new application of an
by being a trading centre, connected to old technology: the rediscovery of trams
Hamburg, Boston and Bombay.15 Today, is a prime example. Not all innovation is
Manchester’s firms are less internationally driven by profit: social innovation to find
connected than in comparable city- new approaches to ageing, education,
regions. Those firms in sectors that are welfare and climate change will be vital
better connected to places outside the to cities in years to come. Cities that fail
region, such as engineering and textiles, to address their social challenges fail
creative and digital media and ICT, show a economically too. Consider the decline
lack of links with the local economy that of New York City in the 1970s and its rise
again in the 1990s, a journey that had

Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth 11

stark economic consequences for the city, in new partners and resources from
but which was rooted in the failure of the outside. Cities need good ingredients
city as a safe, civil place in the 1970s, and that are well connected and combined to
the reestablishment of liveability in the produce innovation. An innovative city
1990s. needs to provide a platform for creative
In sum, innovation does not just come
down a pipeline from specially talented Many companies – Intel and Procter &
and knowledgeable people working in Gamble among them – are following a
special places. More often than not it similar approach. The recent history of
emerges from collaboration, increasingly the mobile phone exemplifies this shift
from international networks, often from pipeline to platform models of
across disciplines, frequently involving innovation. Nokia rose to leadership in
consumers and producers. Innovation the mobile phone industry in the 1980s
that makes a difference to people’s lives from a national base in Finland and
applies not just to new technologies but became a highly efficient, flexible mass
also to relatively low-tech public services, manufacturer of handsets. Yet within two
such as education and health. Innovation decades the leading edge of innovation
can be social as well as commercial. in mobile devices shifted to Apple thanks
to its open approach to mobile phone
All this means a city’s social networks application development. The iPhone is
and how it organises collaboration is vital not just a device but a platform on which
to innovation. This is not a new insight. thousands of third parties have developed
Piore and Sabel focused on flexible phone applications. This has multiplied
specialisation in the networks of Northern the ways an iPhone can be used making it
Italy. AnnaLee Saxenian highlighted the more valuable. Manchester needs to be at
adaptive networks of Silicon Valley which the forefront of this move towards more
are open to immigrants and outsiders. open, networked, collaborative and social
Michael Porter long ago pointed to the approaches to innovation.
centrality of clusters of complementary
companies resting on shared resources.
Richard Florida built on this in his analysis
of the tolerant social dynamics underlying
growth in cities attracting the creative
class. Meanwhile Robert Putnam, in
Bowling Alone, bemoaned the loss of
social capital in modern cities, making
them anonymous and threatening places.
Successful cities and regions depend
on networks that allow for diverse,
decentralised, independent players
to connect and collaborate, drawing

12 Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth

Part 4: What has been achieved to date is not
Much has been achieved in Manchester that have sprung up and Manchester’s
in the past decade. Yet even that evident diversity. Yet much of this retail
has not fundamentally changed the and property development is no more
outlook for hundreds of thousands of than one would expect of a city of
people in the city-region, particularly Manchester’s size. Bringing another Zara
those in the north of the city and in an to Manchester will change very little.
inner ring between the city core and
its outlying suburbs. This social deficit Too much of Manchester is still in a
– the people still left behind by the pretty dire position. Scenes of social,
restructuring of the 1970s and 1980s – physical and economic dereliction and
also explains much of the productivity disinvestment are still too common,
and entrepreneurship gap between just a short walk from the city core, a
Manchester and places with which it stone’s throw beyond eye-catching new
aspires to be compared. developments. The scale of these social
challenges was laid bare in the MIER:
Manchester could be thought of as 420,000 adults lack basic skills in reading
divided into thirds. Some of Manchester and writing; more than 100,000 are still
is world-class: the football clubs and the claiming long-term unemployment benefit
cycling arena; parts of the University of at the end of a long boom; 150,000
Manchester; the Hallé and other parts of people in the city-region are workless
the cultural offer, including the recently due to ill health. Manchester cannot be
established International Festival; aspects a world-class city while carrying these
of popular music and culture; some of the social deficits. Eating away at these
architecture, new and old. Developments deficits is imperative on grounds of social
in the pipeline – Media City, the Sharp equity and productivity. Manchester is
Project, plans for the Corridor and the carrying too many people who are not
developments at Sport City – promise productively employed. The city will
more to come. There is still too little of not close the productivity gap with its
this quality and it is too disconnected: peers unless it also closes the gap in
it seems to exist in pockets. But there is economic participation between the more
more to Manchester that is top class than prosperous south of the city and the
is recognised outside the city. poorest north. In the last decade that gap
has grown.18
Much of Manchester has got a lot better
in the last decade. Life has improved As the MIER put it: “The sooner
especially for those in work. This is Manchester succeeds more in raising
evident in the city’s thriving retail centres, skills and improving education, the lower
the new housing, hotels and food outlets the personal costs of worklessness, the

Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth 13

greater the labour market attachment, and culture. These social deficits do not
and the better the changes of breaking just need to be faced, they need to be
the stubborn cycle of intergenerational used to force more radical and effective
deprivation in parts of the city.”19 solutions.
The MIER report on labour market
and skills concluded there was a:
“deepening polarisation between the
high skilled elements of the city-regional
workforce and residents lacking formal

Cities are poised between the dangers of

rapid growth – which stretches the social
fabric, pumps up property prices and
threatens to overrun older infrastructures
for transport and business – and a cycle
of decline in which people, businesses and
jobs leave, setting off a downward spiral
of economic and social disinvestment. In
Manchester these processes are at work in
the different parts of the city at the same

It is vital city leaders be honest with the

city about these challenges. Innovation is
often only driven by a sense of crisis that
compels people to act, ignore common
practice, improvise and share resources.
The connection between innovation and
crisis is especially strong in the public
sector where other incentives to innovate
are often weak. Much of what has been
achieved in Manchester over the last 13
years came in the wake of the crisis of the
IRA bomb that devastated the city centre.
Creative use of crisis to bring about
change is a hallmark of good leaders.
Manchester should not shy from the
social challenges it faces. On the contrary
it needs to face them squarely to make
the case for radical social innovation that
will change aspiration and skills, people

14 Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth

Part 5: Total innovation

Manchester needs a distinctive way its businesses create new products

innovation strategy, not one that and services, to the way it houses and
mimics or follows other cities which transports people and collects their waste.
are busy building science parks, A successful city needs innovation from
cultural quarters and business hubs. many sources, applied to many aspects of
Manchester’s innovation strategy its life: total innovation.
is neither clear nor future-focused
enough. As Manchester Business Cities have always been centres of
School concluded, comparing the city to learning, the first home to libraries and
Pittsburgh and Oresund in Scandanavia: universities, museums and galleries. Cities
“In Manchester…the message about provide some of the key ingredients for
where the city-region seeks to go in cultural creativity: diversity, density and
terms of innovation and what it is proximity. Yet cities have to be creative
focusing upon is more obtuse – one about more than culture and business.
has to dig to find (often not necessarily The density and scale of cities pose
successfully, and as far as Manchester significant innovation challenges, to
goes, one often finds more about create mass forms of housing, transport,
innovation milestones of the past than health, utilities, waste disposal, education.
innovation strategies for the future).” That is why cities created new shared
institutions – fire services and postal
Manchester should pioneer a Total systems. Cities require continual social
Innovation strategy, to develop innovation and political creativity to address the
from many sources and apply innovation problems that cities throw up as they
to many sectors and products. Manchester grow, mutate and decline. The density of
would be the first city in the world to cities is both the source of their greatest
openly adopt such a comprehensive challenges and their solutions which
open innovation strategy. It would be emerge from the accelerated development
leading the field. Elements of such a and sharing of new ideas that density and
strategy are taking shape in the work of diversity bring. Many cities are struggling
the Commission on the New Economy, to raise educational attainments,
Manchester Knowledge Capital (M:KC) reduce welfare dependency, regenerate
and the Manchester City Region hollowed-out neighbourhoods and
Innovation Prospectus. Manchester make cities safe and secure years after
should be known for its distinctive and first addressing these issues. Complex
sophisticated approach to innovation. challenges are emerging which defy easy
solutions, from climate change to caring
Innovation is essential to virtually for a growing elderly population.
every aspect of a city’s life, from the

Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth 15

These challenges are only going to term agenda. Stability and perseverance
become more intense with migration into will be vital. The crisis of economic
growing cities and away from declining decline that Manchester faced in the
ones; the different demands of an ageing 1970s and 1980s, and the devastation
population and young singles; changing of the bomb in the 1990s, provided the
patterns of employment and family life; city with a clear agenda for renewal. It
the need to shift to more environmentally was clear what needed to be done. As
sustainable forms of energy and Manchester has become more successful,
transport. These social challenges have and the challenges more difficult and less
traditionally been tasks for specialists – tractable, more work needs to be done to
planners, architects and engineers – to build and rebuild a consensus for change.
think through and propose solutions.
Increasingly the wider innovation The prime focus should be on the talent
challenges that cities face require a more and capabilities available to Manchester,
distributed, social creativity, which often both inside and outside the city-region.
involves a combination of top-down After the 1996 bomb, a new master plan
investment in new infrastructures, for was drawn up for the city centre and a
example for energy, transport or waste public-private vehicle created to make it
recycling, combined with mass changes in a reality. What would be the equivalent
behaviour – using electricity, mass transit, of a similarly ambitious plan to develop
household recycling. Manchester’s people and capabilities?

Manchester has some of the ingredients it By culture we do not mean Manchester’s

needs to be an internationally successful offer of art and music, but the wider
city, known for innovation. But it needs sense of people’s values, especially their
more high quality ingredients and it needs aspirations and ambitions, how they get
to make better use of them. Achieving things done, and especially, how they
that will require as much change in collaborate.
the decade to come as in the decade
just gone and it will mean doing things Many of the ingredients of an innovation
differently, again. The approach that strategy focused on people and culture
sustained Manchester through the last are already set out in the strategy for
decade – a public-private partnership Manchester to become a city-region,
focused on physical renewal, property which is based on the analysis of the
and retail – will deliver diminishing MIER. The collaborative governance
returns in the decade to come. The focus arrangements that bring together the ten
has to shift from buildings and physical councils in the city-region create a huge
infrastructure to people and culture. As opportunity for Manchester to innovate
this effort will take time to bear fruit it ambitiously and at scale. What follows are
is vital Manchester’s civic leaders – from suggestions for what should be in that
politics, business, public service, academia agenda for the next ten years.
and civil society – share a common, long-

16 Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth

Part 6: People

Manchester needs to be the place The MIER shows the city-region has a
where the education and welfare strong skills base compared with similar
systems of the future are created. UK cities. The core Manchester economy
That means more than tinkering or pulls in skills from across the region.
improving the current systems. It Yet the city-region economy is not as
means setting out to create new, productive as it should be. A quarter of
more effective systems for supporting the £4 billion prosperity gap between
families, engaging young people, Manchester and the South East is due to
creating opportunities for learning, the toll of worklessness, which is in turn
unlocking creativity and raising linked to low educational attainment.
people’s participation in useful work. Manchester needs a comprehensive and
aggressive strategy first to develop its
There is a growing consensus that the own people and second to attract and
mass industrial era education and welfare retain talent.
systems largely put in place following the
Second World War, extensively reformed
since then, are out of kilter with their Homegrown
times. It is not just that they do not work It is widely recognised that life-chances
as effectively as they could; they may be are strongly influenced before children
doing the wrong job: hitting the targets start attending school. Critical social and
but somehow still missing the point. emotional, language and numeracy skills
are developed in the earliest years. Too
Manchester should lead the creation of many children in Manchester reach school
new approaches to education, family with under-developed capacities to learn
support, and welfare, as elements of and interact with other people creatively
an integrated strategy to develop its and considerately. That is why Manchester
people. Every two years the Manchester needs a new approach offer to its families,
International Festival stages a series of an offer which probably would combine
world cultural premiers. What if every intensive, personalised support for some;
other year Manchester also premiered stronger peer-to-peer networks for others;
a set of new public services, a festival life coaching, parenting and leadership
of public service innovation, drawing skills; and access where appropriate to
in inspired social entrepreneurs and counselling and advice.
innovators from around the world to
showcase new ways to learn and care, The highest cost cases where investment
treat illness and combat climate change? is most needed will be in chaotic families,
often where lone mothers cope with
several children by several fathers. The

Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth 17

children of these families are more likely have the widest array of opportunities
to fail at school, get in trouble with the to learn where, how and what motivates
police and themselves to become parents them. In short Manchester should seek
at an early age. Traditional arms-length to lead an educational revolution, not
social services are invariably unable to just an improvement programme. The
do much to really change the way these modern school can trace its roots back
families live. To do so would require an to innovations in Prussia in the mid-
intensive approach to family development 19th century and in the Victorian school
in which families with children at high risk systems designed by social innovators
of school drop-out and low attainment such as Lancaster and Bell. The grammar
are provided with intensive mentoring of schooling, the way that schools are
and support to change their aspirations designed, lessons conducted, exams
and behaviour. This would mean an sat, timetables organised, has proven
upfront investment in intensive support to remarkably persistent ever since. However
prevent longer-term costs later down the with the advent of new technologies
track. Such a programme would focus on and the need for skills of collaboration,
investment in early years services, working problem solving and risk taking, there
alongside families, to prevent problems is a huge opportunity for Manchester
developing as children grow up. Evidence to become one of the places where the
from similar programmes in Dundee education system of the 21st century is
and Swindon, for example, show that created.
effectively targeted up-front investment
in family support can significantly Manchester is engaged in a sustained
reduce the need for costly social services effort to improve educational attendance
interventions later in life. Manchester and attainment. More than 30 schools
should put family development at the are being rebuilt or refurbished. Seven
core of a new welfare state that improves specialist academies are being created
life chances by changing lives. that promise to bring with them an
injection of new ideas. The Manchester
To be true to its claim to be the original education system is improving albeit from
modern city Manchester should set out a low base. The task of improving the
to create an original modern education schools Manchester has is still a daunting
system. This would mean going beyond one. Studies of school improvement
improving schools, which is the urgent, show that class sizes, the age of school
essential and immediate priority. It would buildings, the presence of computers
also mean seeking to complement schools are all less important than some simple
with learning opportunities at home and factors which all come down to people:
in the community; reforming education whether good people can be recruited
with new curricula, forms of assessment, into teaching, trained well, motivated by
technologies for learning and school the right incentives, managed well and
organisation; providing alternatives to provided with the right environment and
school, so that children in Manchester support to work in effectively. To sustain

18 Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth

improvement in its schools, Manchester in culture, creators of it as well as an
has to become the best place in the UK audience for it. As Manchester’s cultural
for good teachers to want to teach. strategy puts it, the aim should be to
“make the people of Manchester proud
However as well as improving schools, participants and architects of the city’s
Manchester needs an educational strategy cultural life, broadening and deepening
that includes three other ingredients. the opportunities for cultural expression
and participation among citizens”.
First, it must develop the skills and Schools should offer opportunities for
talents of today’s young people to cultural institutions to provide learning
face the unpredictable and challenging experiences that will engage young
world of tomorrow; a world where the people in the creative process and, in
ability to develop new ideas and create doing so, enable them to develop a
opportunities from uncertainty will broad range of skills as well as give them
be crucial. This will require a range of insights into the role of culture to the
skills such as creativity, self-belief, the future economy.
confidence to challenge received wisdom
and leadership. Providing a broad range NESTA through the Manchester
of learning experiences in schools to Innovation Investment Fund and with
help deliver these aptitudes is vital; but Manchester City Council is piloting a new
there is also scope outside of school by schools programme that could provide
enabling young people to make use of the one such model. The idiscover programme
many institutions and establishments in will work with pupils in five schools across
Manchester. Piloting ways of doing this Manchester, supporting and stretching
with different schools and academies will their learning through a range of
provide useful models for other schools in experiences provided by outside partners,
the city to emulate. such as Manchester’s cultural institutions,
the universities, businesses and voluntary
Current engagement in education by organisations. Critically, the pupils will
business and the wider community have the power, through a voucher
is, on the whole, sporadic and young scheme, to purchase these experiences
people are not gaining the necessary based on their own aspirations, which
exposure to emergent aspects of the NESTA will help them develop.
economy, such as the digital and
creative industries, to appreciate some Second, Manchester should play a leading
of the requirements of the future world role in reforming schools, changing how
of work. Whilst, for example, culture they operate. The developing Manchester
and creativity already play a role in curriculum, which has a greater stress on
complementing learning at school, they vernacular, social and emotional skills,
could play an even more significant role. is one focus for this. There is a growing
An original modern approach to culture acceptance that even when schools are
would focus on people as participants doing a good job they are often not

Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth 19

teaching children the kinds of skills they with assistance in the form of money
will need in a world that increasingly or services by way of compensation
expects creativity and curiosity, or support. However a welfare state
entrepreneurship and collaboration. The initially designed to help people through
grip of the national curriculum, the exam temporary periods of ill health or bouts
system and national league tables, means of unemployment now provides long-
that no city has yet developed its own term support for many thousands of
distinctive education system, based on its people and their main source of income.
own curriculum. Manchester should be This is both a lost opportunity for those
pushing to be allowed to do so. individuals to earn higher incomes and
a loss for society, which suffers lower
Finally, Manchester needs to lead the productivity and output. It creates a
way in providing alternatives to school as cycle of dependency on services and
places to learn. Schools are 19th century state transfers. It does little to build
creations, akin to mills for learning. New mutual support, self-help and long-term
technologies now allow learning to take independence. Too often traditional
place in many places and at different welfare services process social problems
times. Children are increasingly adept at without really attacking them.
using these technologies creatively to
learn from one another and to create their A modern welfare state would help
own content. If Manchester wants to be people to change their lives to become
known as original and modern as far as more productive, engaged and to live
education is concerned it should seize independently. The best outcome would
the opportunity to create alternatives not be an improved public service but
to school as centres for learning. These people less dependent upon public
might be more community or workplace- services. That would mean a welfare state
based, using new technologies in new that treated spending as investment
ways. designed to build up people’s capabilities
to live and work independently. The
In many thousands of Manchester current system, however, almost rewards
families no-one has worked for several people for long-term dependency: the
generations. To address this Manchester more needy they prove themselves,
needs to imagine remaking the welfare the more support they will get. A new
state. approach would focus on building up
mutual, work-based, self-help solutions
The welfare state emerged to help in society, rather than relying largely on
people cope with risks of temporary professionals and institutions to deliver
unemployment and illness in the context services to recipients. It would seek to
of an economy delivering full, male change peoples lives rather than process
employment. The welfare state focuses social problems.
on assessing people’s needs, assessing
disadvantage and providing them

20 Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth

Manchester should aim to be the place talent compared to London and the South
where a new kind of welfare state is East.
created first, one that focuses on building
up capabilities, self-help and work rather Manchester needs to excel at adroitly
than maintaining dependency on high- borrowing ideas and people from
cost services. elsewhere. That means the city needs
a deliberate strategy for engaging
with talent that lies beyond the city.
Outsiders The Economic Development Board in
Making more of Manchester’s homegrown Singapore, for example, has set out
talent will be vital but it will not be to build up Singapore’s presence in
enough. Innovative cities and the biotechnology by deliberately recruiting
organisations they support have to researchers from Europe and the US,
be part of global flows of people and often focusing on people in their late 20s
ideas that bring to a city new ways of to 30s who are not yet well established in
working, contacts, opportunities and academic institutions. Manchester should
skills. An innovative city needs to be have a similarly sophisticated strategy
open and attractive to outside talent, that would have the following main
able to absorb, adapt and reuse ideas components:
gathered from elsewhere.20 Increasingly
young knowledge workers are circulating • A variety of Manchester institutions
between several international centres actively attract talent from beyond
before settling in one to start a family. the city. The health service operates
Innovation hotspots in India and China in global labour markets for doctors
are increasingly tightly linked to Silicon and nurses. The universities rely on
Valley and Boston in the US, in part foreign students for income and need
through well-organised diaspora networks to attract the best academics from
such as The Indus Entrepreneur.21 These around the world to work in their labs
internationally mobile, highly skilled and lecture theatres. The region’s
people bring higher incomes, skills, leading football clubs routinely recruit
contacts and sophisticated demand to the talent internationally. The Festival has
city, all of which help drive innovation. brought internationally renowned artists
to the region. A first step would be
Innovators are inveterate borrowers. to gather together expertise from all
Manchester does relatively well in organisations that depend on attracting
borrowing people and ideas from talent to create a shared assessment of
elsewhere. Manchester does well in Manchester’s strengths and weaknesses.
attracting undergraduates and retaining The MIER highlighted the importance
many once they have graduated, at least of good schools, including the need for
compared to other provincial cities. It still international schools, relevant housing
performs poorly in attracting and retaining and high quality lifestyle, leisure and
cultural offers.

Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth 21

• As important as attracting talent is • Manchester needs to be as easy to
the ability to retain it so that talented connect to as plugging a USB drive
people make more than a passing into a computer. The more easily
investment in the city, whether that’s connected Manchester is to London
as a graduate student, a lawyer or a through rail, road, air and broadband
nurse. The key to this lies in the civic the more successful it will be.
and associational life of the city. People Manchester should use its relationship
might move to a city for work but with London to its advantage, not
what keeps them there will be their as an outpost of the greater London
relationships and friends, clubs and economy but as a complement and
networks. The Innovation Investment alternative to it. Manchester needs a
Fund’s Manchester Masters pilot distinctive strategy, not a go-it-alone
initiative is inspired by the graduate one. The city must further develop its
development programmes of the world’s connections to other European, US and
most successful companies. It offers Asian business centres to develop its
ten hand-selected graduates from standing as an international centre for
universities within the Manchester innovation. International surveys show
City Region a salaried opportunity to that Manchester’s reputation outside
sample marketing roles across different the UK is still coloured by its industrial
businesses over the course of the year. decline. Manchester will become more
creative and productive the more it can
• It is inevitable, and in some ways a connect with people in other centres of
good thing, for talent to flow between innovation.
places rather than remain in one place.
Manchester should only bemoan a brain
drain of talent if it permanently loses
touch with it. Many of the immigrant
networks that are so vital to Silicon
Valley keep people connected to their
home base in India and China even
while they are in the US. Manchester
has some of these networks. The
University of Manchester has an alumni
network which keeps it in touch with
former students. The football clubs
have an international fan base. Other
Manchester institutions could learn
more from these examples to do better
at keeping in contact with former
Mancunians, to potentially draw them
back to the city.

22 Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth

Part 7: A culture of innovation

Innovative places allow capable and they did things that made Manchester
talented people to combine and distinctive and famous. As Engels
collaborate easily, to rapidly create and remarked: France had politics; Germany
share ideas, turning them into business philosophy; England had practicality
and products, constantly learning from and nowhere was more practical than
both success and failure, whether their Manchester.22
own or their peers’.
In parts of the city the sense of ambition
How a city allows those combinations that coursed through Manchester in the
to come about is much to do with its 19th century lives on. Yet as the MIER
physical infrastructure: places to meet makes clear much of the city-region
and work, talk and debate and how easy still punches below its weight. For a city
it is to move around. Creative places are of its size, with its skills and resources,
usually densely packed but people are Manchester should be more productive,
also able to move around. As a result entrepreneurial and innovative, and as a
people make unexpected connections, consequence richer. Culture and outlook
find partners with skills and assets that are are part of the explanation for why
complementary to their own. They learn Manchester fails to punch above or at
fast from one another because they live its weight. To make progress Manchester
and work so closely together. When the should focus on two aspects of this
American writer William Empson was asked cultural challenge: generating higher
where creativity came from, he replied aspirations and deepening and extending
“overcrowding”, by which he meant dense collaboration.
connections between diverse people.
Manchester’s renewal has been driven by
Much of the creative life of a city relies the ambitions of its leaders to reverse the
on intangible, social and cultural features city’s decline and put the city back on the
that are hard to plan and manage. Indeed international map. That ambition flows
active and deliberate management of through what has changed for the better
these aspects of a city’s life may be in Manchester in the past decade, from the
counterproductive, creating a bland, continued rise of the university to the new
predictable and frozen culture that buildings in the town centre. To be true to
produces few surprises. Manchester’s past its slogan – ‘original modern’ – Manchester
success was a product of its dissenting, needs the self-confidence to challenge
boisterous, cosmopolitan, commercial orthodoxy and set itself high standards.
and entrepreneurial culture. It was the Too much of the city falls short because
ambitions people had, their practical it lacks the confidence to fulfil ambitions
approach to commerce and the way to be among the best in the world. The

Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth 23

legacy of decline and depression still cultural sector – to help raise ambitions
hangs over derelict buildings, sub-standard for the long run.
housing and people who feel marginalised
and written off. Too much of Manchester is Manchester should explore how to
just getting by as best it can. apply the MIF model – focused on
world premiers and leading innovation
The high ambitions of a relatively small – to health, housing, ageing and climate
elite will not be enough to carry the city change, in Wythenshaw as well as at the
through. High ambitions need to be more Whitworth. The equivalent of an MIF for
widely spread, across all parts and walks of public services would see Manchester give
life in the city-region. a world premier to a set of new public
services every two years. The MIF has
A first step towards that would be to raised the sights of Manchester’s cultural
better understand where ambitions sector and enhanced its reputation. A
are already high and how this has similar strategy may well pay dividends
been achieved in football, cycling, the in other sectors where the city needs a
Manchester International Festival (MIF), reputation for original modern thinking.
the rise of Factory records and the best
departments in the University. In particular Ambition and aspiration matter hugely
the way the MIF has spread a sense of to the demand side of innovation. It is
excitement and confidence through the more difficult to innovate, especially in
city, galvanising the cultural sector to services, if producers are working with
higher ambitions and drawing people to undemanding and parochial consumers.
the city, is a model that could be adapted More sophisticated, demanding
in other sectors. The MIF model seems to consumers drive suppliers to innovate.
involve several factors: In some sectors – leisure sports, music,
software, computer games – consumers
• An avowedly anti-parochial focus to set are themselves innovators. A culture of
Manchester’s standards by the best in consumption marked by low aspirations
the world. will not drive innovation. Innovative, lead
consumers come in many shapes and sizes.
• The introduction of catalytic outside In popular culture and social networking
talent to breed confidence, raise on the web lead users might be 14-18
ambitions, make connections and attract year olds. In other sectors – fine food
yet more talent in its wake. and hotels – they are more likely to be
affluent and cosmopolitan. In science and
• The space in which that talent can do law lead consumers are likely to be highly
something different that would not be knowledgeable. In football they are avid
possible elsewhere. fans. There is no single recipe for creating
the kind of demanding consumers that
• Building links to the existing community drive innovation. To sustain innovation
in the city – in the case of MIF the across a wide front however Manchester

24 Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth

needs to be home to, or easily connected an innovative knowledge economy then it
to, innovative lead consumers, whether needs to excel at the kind of collaboration
in services for the elderly or in recycling that creates and spreads ideas. It must be
and sustainability. In some of these areas easier to find the right collaborators in and
the public sector will need to act as a lead through Manchester than other cities.
consumer, setting high standards or as in
the introduction of personal budgets for The MIER has uncovered evidence about
social care, creating a system that allows how Manchester’s creative and digital
innovative demand to emerge. Where industries are particularly poorly integrated
Manchester cannot itself provide lead into local supply chains. This limits the
markets it needs to make sure companies spread of new ideas that Manchester’s
based in Manchester can easily get access creative businesses are so well placed
to them. This is particularly true, for to absorb from their excellent business
example, in media where Manchester- connections outside the region. This is
based companies need to work with global especially important in light of NESTA
brands based in London, New York, Milan research that suggests that companies that
and Los Angeles. work with creative businesses are more
innovative than ones that do not. NESTA,
Collaboration is another critical feature of in partnership with the Manchester City
innovation culture: who collaborates with Council, the North West Development
whom, and how. Collaboration matters Agency, the ESRC and the AHRC is
to innovation because it is through launching a new scheme called Creative
collaboration that people with different Credits that aims to stimulate new business
disciplines, skills and viewpoints combine connections between Manchester-based
to create new ideas.23 At the very least creative businesses and small businesses in
collaboration can allow people with other sectors.25
complementary skills – a manufacturer
and a designer, a restaurateur and How a city’s social networks structure
food supplier – to meet and match. collaboration has a huge bearing on how
Collaboration can create a shared it learns and responds to change, as the
knowledge base for an entire industry recent history of two US steel towns
and so enhance learning. In digital media, Allentown, Pennsylvania and Youngstown,
for example, collaboration is creating Ohio shows. Twenty years ago both
shared, open source knowledge bases and towns went into steep decline as their
even infrastructures made up of linked steel-making firms hit crisis. Allentown
hardware. Modern science relies on shared has rebounded by transforming existing
databases and open source software companies, building an entrepreneurial
tools. Collaboration of the right kind can sector and attracting inward investment.
speed learning as ideas spread through Youngstown was similar to Allentown in
networks and supply chains. New forms virtually every way. Yet instead of adapting
of collaboration will be increasingly vital in the face of acute economic crisis, it
to innovation.24 If Manchester wants to be failed to attract new businesses or grow

Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth 25

existing ones and fell into a mean race to city’s leadership is closely connected and
the bottom. As its economy declined so its accessible. As a result it is easy to find the
social fabric stretched and tore.26 right person to talk to and to get things
done, people say. Manchester is a large
The difference in these two towns was city-region but its core, where many of
in their social and business networks. the critical decisions are made, feels small
Youngstown’s business networks, because the city’s leadership is so closely
organised around its Garden Club, connected.
rewarded insiders and protected
incumbents. New thinking from outsiders Manchester’s capacity for collaboration
was resisted. Instead of building a broad will need to be extended and deepened,
coalition for regeneration, Youngstown’s however, in the decade to come.
leaders became inward-looking and Manchester is leading the way in creating
sectarian. Allentown had much more collaborative forms of regional governance.
diverse, dynamic and outward-facing Public and private partnerships are
business networks that connected embedded in the Commissions set up to
the town to new opportunities. New develop strategies for the city-region.
businesses quickly found a niche in these City-region governance promises to
networks, adding momentum and energy provide Manchester with a platform for
to the town. innovation in transport, housing, economic
development and jobs.
Allentown recovered because the social
networks linking its business and civic However Manchester will need to deepen
leadership were open to opportunity and and extend its approach to collaboration in
collaboration. Youngstown struggled a number of ways.
because its leadership networks were
inward-looking, centralised, conservative • Key to Manchester’s success over the
and closed to outsiders. Youngstown past decade has been its highly effective
and Allentown are much smaller than leadership which has mixed both stability
Manchester and were heavily dependent and creativity, and combined well with
on a single industry. Yet the central lesson private and public sector counterparts
is still relevant to Manchester’s challenge: to chart the regeneration strategy. A
how the city brings together its civic and relatively cohesive, tight-knit group of
business networks, attracts and integrates city leaders has driven an ambitious
outsiders, around a shared vision of the programme of change. Manchester
future, will be critical. needs to develop the next cadre of civic
and business leaders, a new generation.
Manchester’s track record for collaboration It also needs to widen the pool of
is impressive, particularly the links potential leaders to draw in people from
between public and private sectors, which community associations, small business,
have been central to Manchester’s strategy churches, social entrepreneurs and
over the past decade. Manchester’s young people. A tight-knit leadership

26 Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth

group may have been the appropriate Manchester needs to do more to make
way to drive the strategy of the last ten the learning of its best firms available to
years focused on buildings and physical the rest.
regeneration. But Manchester will need
a more distributed, diverse leadership to • Manchester should match its innovative
pursue a strategy focused on the more approach to collaborative governance
diffuse challenges of developing people at the city-region by developing new
and changing culture. approaches to much more localised
governance, at the level of wards and
• Manchester has strong sector networks, estates to galvanise community level
which link people within common innovation. Manchester needs ambitious
knowledge domains. However innovation leaders locally as well as at the level
increasingly comes from people of the city-region. One interviewee
sharing ideas across domains. Cross- suggested a Wythenshaw Assembly as
sector networks are more important to a local counterpart to the collaborative
innovation because they speed lateral governance overseeing the whole of the
searching and thinking. This is why city-region.
Manchester so needs a locally driven
innovation forum to provide a continuing • The city must continue to press plans
focus for innovators from all sectors to to create a free or low-cost broadband
come together and pool ideas to tackle wi-fi space stretching at least from the
the big challenges facing the city. Sharp Project to Media City. The web
is increasingly vital to collaboration
• Not enough is being made of and networking, in business, politics
the innovation and learning from and social life. It will be difficult for
Manchester’s more internationally Manchester to claim to be a prime
oriented companies. Were they to be location for original modern thinking if
more connected to other Manchester- it trails places such as Amsterdam and
based companies with a more domestic Seoul which are leading the pack on
orientation it would speed innovation widespread and low-cost high-speed
and learning.27 Some of this kind of access to the web.
learning can take place along supply
chains, or through initiatives such • In addition, Manchester should also
as the Sharp Project which aims to consider how to lead the way in
support start-ups with advice from more promoting open source access to public
established digital media companies. information and knowledge, allowing
The rise of the Chilean wine industry public data to be repackaged and
over the past two decades was largely reused, much as Apple has opened up
due to the role of a few internationally the iPhone to independent developers.
connected firms that were the conduit Open access to public information will
for new ideas and techniques that then be a key feature of innovation-friendly
rippled through the rest of the industry. cities in future.

Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth 27

Conclusion: Original Modern, Again

The changes in Manchester have been capitalism, the cooperative movement and
impressive. The cycle of decline has been trade unionism. All were recipes for how
arrested and in some places reversed. A people would best collaborate to take
platform has been put in place for further the opportunities of urban living, new
development. Yet the achievements of technologies, forms of production and
the past decade are no more than the patterns of trade. Manchester needs to do
start of a long process of renewal that the same again, to provide the ideas that
could take several more decades of will shape how cities cope with climate
heavy lifting to come to fruition. The change, digital technologies, networked
focus on Manchester’s efforts will have innovation and ageing. Manchester
to shift from buildings and infrastructure should be the place where new operating
to people and culture, developing systems for education, welfare and the
homegrown talent, improving education, extended life span are devised.
supporting families, providing a much
better experience for children in their Manchester was a font of ideas in the
early years, raising ambitions, encouraging 19th century because it had such a
entrepreneurship, enabling creative cosmopolitan mix of people brought
collaboration across different sectors. together by the pursuit of new knowledge
Manchester still does not have enough of and above all, practical solutions.
the high quality ingredients it needs to be Manchester was a practical place for
a world-class city and those ingredients turning useful knowledge into action.
need to be mixed and combined more Practical action and experimentation
intensively and productively. fed Manchester with the raw material
for ideas and ideologies. The same must
What made Manchester the original be true now. Manchester must earn a
modern city in the 19th century was its reputation for making changes happen
combination of thinking, creating and in welfare, education, digital media, life
doing. The same mix – think, create, do sciences and new materials. It must be
– will be vital for Manchester to be the the natural home for people who are
place where the successful modern city of frustrated by bureaucracy and want to get
the 21st century is made. things done.

In the 19th century Manchester provided That was possible in the 19th century
much of what would become the because Manchester was socially more
operating system of modern capitalism open to maverick, irreverent thinking that
and the alternatives to it, from Cobden’s challenged orthodoxy or simply ignored
liberal free-trade, to Engels’ scientific it. Time and again places have overcome
socialism, Owen’s utopian social their apparent marginality by providing a

28 Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth

home for mavericks, renegades and even
pirates, who were squeezed out of more
established centres of production. This is
how the valleys south of San Francisco
that used to grow fruit and nuts became
home to Silicon Valley rather than the
more established technology clusters on
the east coast; why Hollywood is home
to movies, not New York, and why the US
car industry set up in farmers’ fields in
the Mid West rather than in the industrial
North East. Marginal places can leapfrog
their more established peers by thinking
and acting like outsiders and mavericks,
licensing unconventional tactics and
thinking. Manchester must not become
bland, predictable and dully respectable,
a controlled outpost of global corporate

Manchester became the original modern

city because it was where the future
arrived first. That is why people flocked
to it, to see the first signs of what was to
come. Manchester will only reclaim that
mantle if once again it applies a mix of
maverick ideas and resolutely practical
problem-solving to big issues that face all

If Manchester can address these big

challenges of education, welfare,
sustainability, digital media, with maverick
thinking from around the world, matched
to practical action, then it has a chance
to be again a city to which the rest of the
world turns for a lead.

Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth 29


1. Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (2009) ‘Prosperity For All: The Greater Manchester Strategy.’ Manchester:
AGMA. Available at:
2. National Statistics (2006) ‘Regional, Sub-Regional and Local Gross Value Added.’ Newport: ONS. Available at: http://www.
3. Centre for Cities (2009) ‘Cities Outlook 2009.’ London: Centre for Cities. Available at:
4. Manchester Enterprises (2007) ‘Greater Manchester Strategy Business Plan.’ Manchester: Manchester Enterprises. Available
5. Colombo, A. (2008) The ‘Lombardy Model’: Subsidiarity-informed Regional Governance. ‘Social Policy and Administration.’
Volume 42, No.2, April 2008.
6. OECD (2006) ‘OECD Territorial Reviews: Milan, Italy.’ Paris: OECD.
7. Shapira, P., Luger, M., Uyarra, E. and Marzocchi, C. (2009) ‘Innovation across the Manchester City Region: A Discussion
Paper.’ Manchester: Knowledge Capital UK.
8. Ibid.
9. De Propris, L., Chapain, C., Cooke, P., MacNeill, S. and Mateos-Garcia, J. (2009) ‘The Geography of Creativity.’ NESTA:
10. NESTA (forthcoming report) ‘Creative Clusters and Innovation: Final report.’ London: NESTA.
11. Based on data from Manchester Independent Economic Review (2009) ‘Reviewer’s Report.’ Available at: http://www.
12. Sabel, C. and Saxenian, A. (2008) ‘A Fugitive Success - Finland’s Economic Future.’ Sitra Reports 80. Helsinki: Sitra.
13. Nathan, M. and Urwin, C. (2006) ‘City People: City Centre Living in the UK.’ London: Centre for Cities. Available at: http://
14. Huggins, R. et al. (forthcoming report) ‘Sourcing Knowledge for Innovation: The Internationalisation of Flows.’ London:
15. Hunt, T. (2009) ‘The Frock-coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels.’ London: Allen Lane.
16. Manchester Independent Economic Review reports available from
17. Kidd, A. (2006) ‘Manchester: A History.’ Manchester: Manchester University Press.
18. Manchester Independent Economic Review reports available from
19. Manchester Independent Economic Review (MIER) (2009) ‘Reviewers Report’, p.5.
20. Mahroum, S., Huggins, R., Clayton, N., Pain, K. and Taylor, P. (2008) ‘Innovation by Adoption: Measuring and mapping
absorptive capacity in UK nations and regions.’ London: NESTA.
21. Saxenian, A. (2006) ‘The New Argonauts.’ Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; as cited in Day and Stilgoe (2009)
‘Knowledge Nomads: Why Science Needs Migration.’ London: Demos.
22. Hunt, T. (2009) ‘The Frock-coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels.’ London: Allen Lane.
23. London School of Economics (2009) ‘The Case for Agglomeration Economies.’ Manchester: Manchester Independent
Economic Review (MIER).
24. Sabel, C. and Saxenian, A. (2008) ‘A Fugitive Success - Finland’s Economic Future.’ Sitra Reports 80. Helsinki: Sitra.
25. See
26. Safford, S. (2008) ‘Why the Garden Club Could Not Save Youngstown: The Transformation of the Rust Belt.’ Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.
27. Volterra Consulting (2009) ‘Innovation, Trade and Connectivity.’ Manchester: Manchester Independent Economic Review

30 Original Modern Manchester’s journey to innovation and growth

Charles Leadbeater
Charles Leadbeater is a leading authority on innovation and creativity. He has advised companies,
cities and governments around the world on innovation strategy and drawn on that experience
in writing his latest book We-think: the power of mass creativity which charts the rise of mass,
participative approaches to innovation from science and open source software, to computer games
and political campaigning.
He is a visiting Senior Fellow at NESTA and a visiting Fellow at the Skoll Centre for Social
Entrepreneurship at the Saïd Business School in Oxford. He is author of Living on Thin Air: A guide
to the new economy and, as a special adviser to the former DTI, drafted the 1998 government
white paper: Our Competitive Future: Building the Knowledge Driven Economy.

1 Plough Place
London EC4A 1DE

Provocation 11