More than 30 tech leaders are set to form trade mission on the North’s inaugural flight to San Francisco this month.

Tech sector leaders will fly the Northern Powerhouse flag on a Silicon Valley trade mission to mark the launch of direct flights from Manchester to San Francisco.
Entrepreneurs, universities and business bodies say the service, with Virgin Atlantic, will deliver a major boost to the industry across the North, giving them access to funding and know-how from the home of tech giants like Facebook, Uber, Eventbrite and Apple.
Trade Minister Greg Hands hailed the three-times weekly route as “a boost for the Northern Powerhouse’s ambitious tech and digital companies as they take advantage of new markets and trading opportunities”
It is the first ever direct service from the North to San Francisco and the only route outside of London in the UK.
A 30-strong delegation of leading figures from the tech sector across the North will board the first flight from Manchester, on March 28, as part of the mission. It has been coordinated by MC2, a Northern Powerhouse partner with offices in Manchester and San Francisco, in partnership with Manchester Airport and Virgin Atlantic, and supported by the Department for International Trade and the Institute of Directors.
The group is being led by two serial technology investors and entrepreneurs, Scott Fletcher, founder of cloud services provider ANS Group, Manchester and Dr Adam Beaumont, founder of telecoms platform business aql, Leeds.

The delegation includes a mix of Northern corporates such as Sage, of Newcastle, CoOp Digital, of Manchester, as well as a host of early and mid-stage tech firms like Hull-based VISR-VR, Vibe Tickets and one iota, from Lancashire, and Manchester-based Wakelet. It is also being supported by the University of Central Lancashire and Manchester Metropolitan University.
Mike Perls, Chair of IOD North West and CEO at MC2 said: “We’ve turned a typical trade mission on its head. This has been created by the private sector, for the private sector – with government backing. We’ve set our own objectives and will deliver genuine outcomes.
“For the Northern Powerhouse initiative to succeed we need a coherent vision, and that involves individual sectors coming together for genuine collaboration around shared goals. This trade mission kicks starts the technology cluster group and the bonds we’ll create between delegates – and the learnings we’ll bring back – will stand the whole sector in great stead for the future.”
Silicon Valley is the world’s leading hub for the tech sector, with an estimated 25% of all start-up funding still originating in the San Francisco area.
The North of England currently has 283,000 tech sector jobs, worth £10bn. It is hoped the direct service will drive large-scale growth by linking businesses across the patch with funding and talent from Northern California.
The delegates are set to have a high profile itinerary, meeting some of the West Coast’s top tech giants while on the mission. They will also get the opportunity to meet leading US universities and funders, pitching investment and collaboration opportunities in the North.
International Trade Minister Greg Hands said: “The Northern Powerhouse, like Silicon Valley, is a leading centre of creativity and innovation. A direct link between the home of the industrial revolution, and the home of the digital revolution, will be a boost for both regions, and for the Northern Powerhouse’s ambitious tech and digital companies as they take advantage of new markets and trading opportunities across the world.”

Professor Richard Greene, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “The Northern Powerhouse’s growing technology cluster is the perfect fit for San Francisco’s renowned digital sector, supplying a gateway to the UK that is helped by the new direct flight route. Manchester Metropolitan has a strong presence across the digital sector and can play a lead role through its research, support for SMEs and business, and the provision of high-quality education and training.”



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