Andy Burnham brought the curtain down on the inaugural Manchester Tech Week with an inspiring keynote to a packed main stage.

The Greater Manchester Mayor stated that this was ‘our place and our time’, calling for full collaboration on a major digital journey.

“I am so proud that the biggest gathering of Northern tech talent has taken place in our city – entirely in keeping with our reputation as one of the fastest-growing digital and tech hubs in Europe,” he said at Manchester Central.

In what has become a fantastic success story for Manchester and the North, generally tech is currently a £5 billion economy and is aiming to be at £10bn by the end of the decade.

Burnham said: “This story is building and we can definitely do it! There has been an amazing change since the 1990s.”

Having watched the rise of the creative digital community, the building of MediaCity and arrival of the BBC in the city, there is growing confidence, passion and drive for innovation across all sectors.

He continued: “We are seeing it now happening with eGaming and AI, with GCHQ choosing Manchester as its Digital Security Innovation Hub putting the city at the epicentre of cyber and digital security excellence.”

Talking of what’s required in terms of digital infrastructure, Burnham flagged the challenge of tackling the talent and skills gap. “Our education system is not yet aligned with the vision. All of our young people should get a good grounding in digital skills with future employability in mind.”

He called on businesses to work around this challenge. ”We are going to have to collaborate to bring through talent to ensure this success story does not falter.”

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Burnham also called on businesses to post jobs on GMACS Greater Manchester Apprenticeship & Careers Service, a UCAS-style system for apprenticeships to give young people a window on the modern economy.

“Many young people, their parents and carers have no idea about the amazing jobs on offer.”

A proposed deepening of devolution would also strengthen Burnham’s hand in controlling the post-16 education system to ensure that the tech sector’s needs could be better met.

“This is something we have to fix, if GM, the North and indeed the whole of the UK is going to be a world-leading digital authority.”

Speaking on digital inclusion, Burnham challenged businesses to think beyond their own operations and ask if we are building a true digital community where all residents are online.

Initiatives like the Greater Manchester Tech Fund play into delivering on this mission and Burnham referred to the need to create Data Banks – like Food Banks of the last decade –  and called on businesses to donate.

He said: “A true digital city region is not just about high-end industry, it’s where everyone can find their place and we need to work hard on that. Let’s not leave anyone behind.”

Success will be defined by someone living in one of our 10 boroughs and looking at a city centre digital community where they know they can aspire to work.  Burnham again. “Only then will we be tapping into the full diversity of workforce on offer.”

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Concluding, he said: “This is a city with a heart and soul which thinks about everyone together. If that is you, I invite you on the journey. We led the world through the industrial revolution and we can certainly lead it through the digital one.”

James McGough, managing director at Imago TechMedia, organisers of the week, said Burnham had underlined all the reasons for bringing the leading show to the North and had ended the week on a massive high.

“We want to play our full part in delivering the ambitions shared by Andy today not just around economic success but what tech can do to bridge digital divides and achieve much wider societal goals. We can’t wait to do more.”