Last week’s Greater Manchester’s second digital summit revealed plans for an innovative crowdsourced action plan and an alliance with Digital Catapult.

The scheme will aim to give young people the skills they need to get good jobs, making public services more efficient, reducing social exclusion, giving start-up businesses the support they need to grow, improving infrastructure, and ensuring Greater Manchester is able to capitalise on innovations and developments that will improve people’s lives.

Following the summit, the plans will now be considered for adoption by the Combined Authority who will use the recommendations to drive forward Greater Manchester’s ambition to become the UK’s leading digital city region, outside of the capital.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Greater Manchester famously likes to do things differently and this is exactly what we are doing when it comes to building our digital future. When I got elected as mayor, I asked the digital and tech community here to help me write a plan that will help us achieve our goal to be the UK’s leading digital city region. Today they are reporting back and are delivering exciting proposals that will take Greater Manchester to the next stage of our digital journey. By crowdsourcing our plan, Greater Manchester is also doing politics differently and driving real change from the bottom up.

“Our vision should be to make Greater Manchester a digital city region with a difference. For me that means using digital and tech to give young people the skills they need to access the many well-paid digital jobs we have, using tech innovations to improve our health and social care services, increasing diversity in the digital sector and opening up opportunities to all, reducing loneliness and isolation for older people, updating our infrastructure, and supporting digital start-ups to become bigger businesses.

“I’m hugely impressed with the ideas that have been put forward so far. These will now form the basis of a digital strategy with a difference – one that will make people’s lives better, and which has been put together from the ground up using the knowledge and experience of experts in the sector. Our approach is what makes Greater Manchester different; this is what sets us apart.”

One of the key announcements was Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s strategic partnership with the UK’s national digital research and development agency, Digital Catapult.

Joining forces with Digital Catapult will enable Greater Manchester to improve its digital infrastructure, for example providing better, free public wifi and 5G mobile data provision.

Local businesses will be supported to improve their digital capabilities, increase their productivity, and drive economic growth.

Plans are also in place to develop a commissioning platform that will allow larger companies to throw out challenges and opportunities for smaller, specialist tech companies.

Dr Jeremy Silver, CEO Digital Catapult said: “Helping companies to adopt digital technologies more rapidly is a key driver to increasing productivity and competitiveness. Digital Catapult works with large businesses and small start-ups to help accelerate their use of digital.

“We create the facilities and the programmes that can stimulate new markets and transform existing businesses. We are delighted to be collaborating with GMCA in this innovative programme that can bring acceleration to the digital potential of the Northwest. Encouraging innovation is key to helping businesses become global leaders.”

Young people are also being given a helping hand. A new online system, – designed to improve careers experiences for young people, raise their aspirations, and enable them to seize the opportunities available in Greater Manchester’s fast-growing tech sector.

Bridge GM will help build better links between schools, colleges and local businesses – not just with creative digital agencies, but across all sectors reliant on digital skills and infrastructure, including finance, retail and manufacturing.

From mentoring to providing first-class work experience opportunities, employers can use the website to get involved in different ways, and in a manner that best suits them. In return, they will be helping to create a steady stream of school-leavers that are work-ready with the skills employers need.

Greater Manchester’s lead for Skills, Employment and Apprenticeships, Cllr Sean Anstee, said: “We need to take action now to equip our young people with desirable skills and provide employers with a highly-skilled pool of home-grown digital talent.

“Bridge GM aims to provide every young person with at least one meaningful encounter with an employer in every year they’re in compulsory education. I urge employers from businesses large and small to visit the website and get involved.”


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