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Five charts that show Manchester is a city of the future

Manchester has all the attributes a city needs to thrive in the knowledge economy.

In this short, visual article we present five charts that show why Manchester is such a rich, vibrant and economically prosperous city. Our view is that the ingredients of connectivity, culture, talent, scale and scientific heritage make the city well-equipped to thrive in the coming years and decades.

Manchester’s cultural and scientific heritage

Before we look forward, let’s reflect on the past. Manchester has been a hub of creativity and innovation for centuries.

1653 - The UK’s first free public library built.
1783 - Richard Arkwright set up the first mill to use steam power.
1803 - John Dalton’s atomic theory.
1830 - The world’s first passenger railways started operating.
1850 - The first law in thermo-dynamics was discovered by James Prescott Joule.
1853 - John Benjamin Dancer invented micro-photography and microfilms.
1896 - The first purpose built industrial estate was created at Trafford Park.
1908 - The first British plane was designed and flown by A V Roe.
1917 - Ernest Rutherford discovered how to split the atom.
1948 - The first computer with a stored program and memory was developed.
2005 - First 3D printer of human tissue developed.
2010 - Scientists awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on Graphene.
2016 - The first UK city to be awarded the prestigious accolade of European City of Science.

A magnet for talent

Access to talented and creative people is to modern business what access to coal and iron ore was to steel-making. Large agglomerations of highly skilled people are therefore critical to a city’s prospects. Manchester has over 100,000 students across four universities, producing 28,000 graduates a year. 51 per cent of students choose to remain in the city.

Number of full-time students and number of students who remain in city after graduation
Source: HESA, Liberty Living. Shaded areas denote graduates retained

The clusters that drive Manchester’s growth

Being part of a cluster provides companies with easier access to information and technology, while providing efficiencies in sourcing inputs such as labour. This enables a city’s firms to be more productive. Manchester was consistently identified as having one of the top three largest sectoral agglomerations in the UK by the government (2017).

Illustrative map of key clusters which drive central Manchester’s economy
Source: Aviva Investors

The UK’s largest regional city economy

Agglomeration benefits exist when firms and people locate near one another as co-location makes the exchange of goods and ideas easier and cheaper. The larger the agglomeration, the greater the benefits. Greater Manchester has a population of 2.7 million and the deepest pool of highly skilled labour in centres outside of London. The area has access to more commuters than any regional conurbation in the country: seven million people live within an hour’s drive of the city centre.

Average commuter distance using a car to the centre of Manchester
Source: OpenStreetMaps, Aviva Investors

Globally renowned as a city of culture

Manchester is home to two of the world’s richest football clubs, bringing the city to the attention of a global audience. It is also famous for its vibrant musical heritage – from the Bee Gees to Joy Division, Happy Mondays to Harry Styles – and the Manchester International Festival, a cutting-edge arts event. These cultural attractions are part of the reason why the city is the third most popular among tourists to the UK.

The most listened to bands from Greater Manchester on Spotify and Deezer
Source: Spotify, Deezer, as at February 13, 2020 https://www.prideofmanchester.com/music/top100.htm

A highly connected city region

Good connectivity within a city provides access to larger labour pools and facilitates density. More than 5.6 million journeys are made across Greater Manchester’s transport network each day.

Greater Manchester accessibility levels by area
Source: Transport for Greater Manchester 2019


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