Greater Manchester SMEs can access new markets and achieve significant growth by focusing on the innovation and new technologies that will help create cleaner and smarter places to live and work.

That’s the message of a new programme, Sustainable Cities and Infrastructure, which is set to give small- and medium-sized businesses in the region the chance to work alongside large corporates and leading academics on fresh approaches to the urban environment.

The business opportunity spans a vast area from traditional manufacturing, construction, energy, and engineering to software and app development, sensor technology, future mobility, data analysis, cyber security and Internet of Things products.

“Some of the best ideas to optimise the services that we all use such as energy, transport and water come from small and medium sized business,” said Tim Newns, Chief Executive of MIDAS, one of the partners driving the programme.

“We already have examples of Greater Manchester-based businesses flourishing in smart city products and the pandemic has only accelerated innovation. The low carbon challenge touches every part of our region’s future and we are determined to support both foreign-owned, larger businesses and SMEs that are developing new technology that will give us cleaner and smarter towns and cities.

“We also want to ensure that Greater Manchester is recognised globally for its innovation and leadership in this area.”

Sustainable Cities and Infrastructure is part of Innovate Manchester, an ambitious and participatory online programme created by MIDAS and GC Business Growth Hub  which is being produced by FutureEverything.

The first event is a free-to-attend webinar that takes place on 25th November. The keynote speaker, Bamidele Adebisi, is a Professor in Intelligent Infrastructure Systems at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has already been involved in award-winning collaborative projects with Greater Manchester SMEs.

Professor Adebisi’s team worked with Rochdale-based Aquacheck Engineering, for instance, to transform the traditional standpipe – something we all rely on for our water supply – by turning it into a smart, connected device, which delivers invaluable insight into water usage. The three-year project involved drawing on the University’s expertise in electronic engineering and embedded systems to design and produce a smart water standpipe that utility companies can use to remotely monitor water.

Other speakers include Jane Healey-Brown – Director of Planning, Policy and Economics at Arup, who is leading the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Towns Fund Delivery Partnership in the North. She is joined by Jon Corner, the Chief Digital Officer at Salford City Council, and Dr Beenish Siddique,  the founder and CEO, AEH Innovative Hydrogel Limited.

The Sustainable Cities and Infrastructure webinar is followed on 8th and 9th December with two invite-only Virtual Innovation Labs where small-medium sized business participants will work together on real-world solutions to solve key challenges posed by large companies.

Richard Jeffery, Director of Business Growth at the Growth Company, said: “It’s an incredibly exciting time in the development of sustainable cities, with a wealth of opportunities for Greater Manchester. Technology in its many and varied forms can make cities cleaner, more secure, and enhance our well-being.

“Smart city tech is about connecting as many assets and services as possible, which could include roads, water system, traffic signs and buildings – and making decisions with that data, optimising as you go along.

“For these market opportunities, our city-region’s SMEs can work independently or partner with bigger business and academia, but our programme is very much about opening the doors to collaboration.”

The Innovate Manchester programme is part of the Build Back Better campaign to help the city region recover from the impact of the COVID pandemic. Innovate Manchester and other GC Business Growth Hub projects are part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the GC Business Growth Hub project designed to help ambitious SME businesses achieve growth and increase employment in Greater Manchester. The Hub is also supported by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Greater Manchester local authorities.

To register a place on Sustainable Cities and Infrastructure, please visit this page