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Points North: Laura Harper, partner at Shoosmiths


Each Friday, Points North gives a senior media figure a platform to air their views on a topical or relevant issue.

This week it’s Laura Harper, partner at Shoosmiths and head of the firm’s Manchester IP and Creative Industries team. She believes the potential expansion of MediaCityUK will truly place the North on the global map for media.

The important and welcome news this week that MediaCityUK will double in size over the course of the next decade prompted me to reflect on the rapid evolution of the technology and creative sector in the North over the last 10-15 years.

The original investment in Salford by the BBC – which as we all know, was not welcomed universally beyond this neck of the woods– has clearly created an enduring legacy.

The fact that the £1bn investment in expanding MediaCity will come from the private sector– Peel and its partner Legal & General – is an enormous vote of confidence.

I have followed the development of MediaCity closely since the BBC announced its intention to relocate part of its operations to the North back in 2004. Indeed, it was this move and investment which was the catalyst for the inception of my creative industries practice almost 10 years ago. I believe the expansion can only further elevate the status of  Manchester and the North nationally and internationally.

Importantly too, it will act as an amazing magnet for both talent and further investment.

At this point in the sector’s growth story, talent is probably the more important of these two vital ingredients. Hopefully as well as luring professionals from London and other tech-hubs, the next wave of investment here will encourage the region’s universities to develop the courses and skills for industries such as fin-tech.

You can never have enough good people and if we are, as a region, to make the most of the potential to be a globally important hub, then providing businesses with a flexible and skilled pool of talent is vital.

Investing in skills at the grassroots will help deliver it more cost-effectively than if employers have to import skills from outside the region.

There is a positive picture in the region beyond MediaCity. The Sharp Project is full and thriving– it was great to see the announcement from Fabrik earlier this week, one of the many companies  based there and part of the resurgent interactive gaming sector.

Another hugely important project – which again places Manchester at the heart of technology and innovation in the UK – is CityVerve, which is truly ground-breaking in terms of civic innovation – a public-private collaboration around the Internet of Things and smart cities, making public services more efficient through technology.

With global companies like Cisco continuing to invest,  in the region, alongside Manchester City Council and leading local innovation organisations such as FutureEverything, in projects like CityVerve, it puts Manchester on the global map as a centre for innovation.

As a keen supporter of our creative, digital and technology sectors and their huge potential, I believe the foundations have been laid for further sustained growth over the next decade. The sky is the limit.

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