Posted on March 9, 2017 by staff

Budget was ‘missed opportunity’ for Manchester


A Manchester entrepreneur has said this week’s Budget was a “missed opportunity” for Manchester but welcomed the announcement of investment in UK technology.

Chancellor Philip Hammond  pledged funding for robotics, driverless cars and the next-generation 5G mobile network as he outlined how more than £500 million would be allocated from the National Productivity Investment Fund.

However David Levine, CEO of augmented reality start-up DigitalBridge, sounded a note of caution.

“It was good to hear about investments in research and development and new technology, but the Government missed an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to the digital economy beyond the borders of London,” he said.

“The higher cost of living in London means there has been an influx in tech talent coming to the North, and Manchester especially. We have a growing tech hub in the city with some innovative companies that could rival any in London.

“Recent announcements for investment in science, research and SMEs have been encouraging, but businesses in the North would have been more reassured if this was backed further by the Chancellor, especially as we enter a period of economic and political uncertainty.”

DigitalBridge’s technology allows shoppers to digitally view how carpet, wallpaper and furniture will look in their own property. It uses machine learning techniques to judge the dimensions of the room, calculate boundaries between objects and give accurate lighting.

A total of £270m will be spent by the Government seeking to make the UK a world leader in disruptive technologies such as robotics, biotech and driverless vehicles, while there is £200m backing for local projects to leverage private sector investment in ‘full-fibre’ broadband networks.

The National Productivity Investment Fund will provide £16m to build a new 5G mobile hub at research institutions, while further investment will back 1,000 new PhD and fellowship positions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

Nick Black, CEO of Manchester-based mobile application and solutions developer Apadmi, said of the Budget announcements: “For technology businesses in the UK, the Budget’s commitment to fuel growth and support talent development is going to be greatly received.

“The £500 million investment to boost technology and innovation will go a long way towards helping the UK compete with the rest of the world as we prepare to leave the European Union.

“Given the current skills crisis taking hold of the sector, it’s more vital than ever that we invest in the talent we currently have available, but that we are also able to bring new jobs to the UK and attract foreign investment.”

Jodi Birkett, TMT Partner at Deloitte in the North West, said:  “The rollout of 5G connectivity was one of this year’s TMT Predictions from Deloitte and it is encouraging to see the Government taking tangible steps towards implementing this across the UK.

“If our tech industry is to really stamp its mark on the global stage fast connectivity is essential, and the £316m fund for fibre broadband and 5G is very positive news.

“We have already seen the benefit of a strong support network in the region’s tech clusters and these two things combined will create a force to be reckoned with.”

The Chancellor also announced the introduction of ‘T-Levels’, qualifications for technical skills.