Andy Burnham says his commitment to technology is evidenced in the fact he held a major digital summit in the city within 60 days of coming to power.
Some of the biggest names in the industry spoke at the conference about their successes, challenges and experiences which were then discussed in special workshops – with the findings forming a blueprint for Burnham’s future tech strategy.
The mayor has already announced the creation of a £2m digital skills fund but has laid down the gauntlet to business leaders to play their part in turning Manchester into the UK’s top tech city.
“I see tech as essential,” Burnham told BusinessCloud. “It’s an important sector in and of itself but it’s also an enabling sector for the whole economy.
“Every company these days is effectively a tech company in one way or another so for me it’s the sector to focus on, which is the reason why I’ve prioritised it in this way.
“Because of its nature it’s quite a fragmented sector. It’s very bitty with lots of smaller players and different sized organisations.
“It needs structures to pull it together so it can punch its weight more effectively on that bigger stage. It’s at the heart of my plans.”
Burnham is the former MP for Leigh and won a landslide victory in May’s election. He says it’s crucial the regions are less London-centric and has spoken of “a new type of politics”.
“My job, it seems to me, is to say ‘yeah, here’s the ambition to be the UK’s top digital city’, get great people in the room and say ‘how are we going to get there?’” he explained.
“We have to get them to write the plan, not me. The old politician’s way was to say ‘here’s what we want to do’. That does not work. Once they’ve written the plan I’ll get behind it and that’s how I’m going about it.
“I’m not the world’s most tech-savvy person but like any person in their 40s, who’s a parent, I’m being re-educated by my kids.”
Burnham has already pledged to have a follow-up conference in December and is unequivocal in wanting Manchester to be the UK’s top digital city and one of the best in Europe.
“Manchester United never start off the season by saying ‘fifth place is good enough this year’,” says Burnham, himself a committed Everton fan.
“The Mancunian spirit is not to do that. We have to aim for the very top. I’m doing that for the tech sectors like the football clubs do it for themselves.”
Burnham says there are some great tech companies in Greater Manchester.
“There’s such incredible stuff happening both through very established names like the Co-op and BBC but there’s some newer players like UKFast and LADBible, which is an interesting mix,” he said.
Mayor: Andy Burnham
Digital jobs: 62,653
Digital GVA: £2.8bn
Digital tech turnover: £2.9bn
Average advertised digital salary: £47,349
Tech employers: Boohoo, The Hut Group
Famous for: MediaCityUK, home to BBC and ITV Granada. Manchester Science Partnerships Central Campus is home to more than 170 companies in life science, health tech, biotech, digital and creative.