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Why Greater Manchester is the place to innovate

Yvonne Grady

The region’s vibrant ‘innovation ecosystem’ is helping businesses to explore new opportunities and bring products to market. New programmes and opportunities for support are making it even more robust, writes Yvonne Grady, Head of Innovation at GM Business Growth Hub.

For centuries, Greater Manchester has led the world by developing innovations that have incredible potential for businesses and individuals alike. 

From the understanding and measurement of energy and ‘joules’ to the development of 2D material, graphene, our region has been at the forefront of scientific discovery for centuries. 

As a result of this shared ambition and innate drive for improvements, this region has become a great working example of an ‘innovation ecosystem’ – a flexible and interconnected mix of people, businesses, research bodies, and public sector organisations that work collaboratively and competitively, sharing knowledge, best practice and exciting opportunities. 

Within an ecosystem like this, when talented people from business and academia are brought together, through formal or informal networks and shared working spaces, you can see that innovation blooms. Ideas are born and can be tested and implemented quickly. 

We’re already seeing businesses and owners from all sectors, cooperating to address challenges, and creating new commercial opportunities. The result of collaboration can be growth for existing businesses, the formation and scaling up of new businesses, a greater level of investment and international attention. 

The region boasts major universities, research and development bodies, clusters of progressive SMEs, innovation accelerators, major global businesses, and tens of thousands of highly skilled people. 

Those resources are not just in the city centre and the Oxford Road corridor. There is the Salford Innovation Triangle; the Advanced Manufacturing Centre at the University of Bolton; Media City; the North of England Robotics Innovation Centre; Atom Valley; the Advanced Machinery and Productivity Institute; a dedicated acoustics centre at the University of Salford; and even the Innovation campus at SciTech Daresbury in Warrington. 

The spirit of collaboration in the region means that these assets are not working in vacuums, but instead they are constantly engaging with one another, learning from new discoveries and mistakes, embracing the opportunities presented. 

In amongst all that, Greater Manchester also has the added benefit of the GM Business Growth Hub, a body dedicated to improving opportunity and growth prospects for businesses, bringing value and attention for the region as a whole. 

To be able to engage with businesses at any stage, the Hub’s Innovation team is at the forefront of understanding new technologies while also providing access to the funding mechanisms that might be appropriate and available. It navigates the innovation eco-system in Greater Manchester and acts as a facilitator, bringing businesses together to commercialise new products and services. 

Earlier this year, GM Business Growth Hub launched Innovation Navigator, a dynamic new programme that will accelerate innovation projects towards successful market delivery and commercialisation. 

Until March 2025, Innovation Navigator will provide businesses working in AI, data and advanced computing; diagnostics and genomics; and sustainable advanced materials with bespoke support to accelerate the delivery of products and services to market.

Businesses can receive specialist advice to reduce time to launch and bringing new innovations to market, while embedding skills in the business for future growth and allowing for greater knowledge transfer opportunities.

The city region’s universities – Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Salford, the University of Manchester and the University of Bolton – are partnering with Innovation Navigator to open their doors to businesses to further encourage research and collaborations. 

Each of these major institutions has a strong track record of working with industry to share knowledge and develop commercial products. Their support can help your idea to gain momentum, accelerate R&D, shorten your time to market, and clarify the impact of future technological change.

In addition to specialised and tailored support, participants could also benefit from £1.6m available in grant funding and access to the investment community.

Building on the work that the GM BGH Innovation team is already doing to bolster positive cross pollination of ideas around Greater Manchester, Innovation Navigator is directly accelerating the projects that businesses are working to progress.

Businesses can also be very focused on day-to-day operations, when there is plenty to be done looking to the future and anticipating the changes that will be required to remain competitive. Sometimes you just need an injection of specialist knowledge from outside of your business to turn an idea into tangible, commercial success. 

By embracing innovation and being part of the innovation ecosystem in Greater Manchester, businesses can find solutions to their problems, draw expertise from across the region and potentially help others in the future. 

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