A digital event in Manchester hailed Andy Burnham’s appointment as the city’s metro mayor as a real opportunity to do things ‘our way’.  

More than 100 of the region’s tech entrepreneurs and professionals met to discuss how the newly elected mayor could shape the city’s digital future.

Organised by Manchester Digital, the ‘digital revolution’ event opened with a panel discussion about the role Burnham has to play in further developing Manchester’s prosperous digital and technology sector in his new role as mayor.

“Congratulations to Andy Burnham on his election,” said BusinessCloud editor Chris Maguire, who spoke at the event. "This is a great opportunity for the tech sector in Manchester.

“He has committed to holding a digital summit to celebrate the region’s tech credentials and BusinessCloud would be delighted to be involved.”

Burnham told Maguire recently that tech and digital is crucial to the future of the wider Manchester region and that, if elected, he planned to bring together the great and the good of tech within the year to sing Greater Manchester’s praises.

“Tech and digital has got to be a core part of our story as a city region going forward,” he said in March.

“If I am elected, I’m going to convene a digital summit to announce our ambition to the country, to Europe and the world that Manchester is going to become a world-leading digital city.”

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL

Digital Revolution

Maguire said of ‘digital revolution’, pictured above: “It was a thought-provoking event and I was delighted to speak about how fake news is a massive problem for society.”

His fellow panellists were Shaun Fensom, digital infrastructure consultant, Alison Ross from Auto Trader, Tony Foggett, CEO of Code Computerlove and Manchester Digital’s Katie Gallagher.

They discussed how a mix of devolution and new leadership structure holds the power to make a real impact when it comes to talent and skills, innovation and infrastructure.

They also underlined Manchester’s digital sector as being key to the region for future prosperity, but added that proper policies now need to drive this.

While there was lots of positivity around the region’s digital future, conversation turned again to the skills gap, with panellists citing the number of vacant jobs in Manchester, but the fact there’s not enough skilled professionals to fill them.

Panellists believed that a lack of awareness of careers in digital and tech at a school level was the biggest issue, stressing the need for a better careers service within schools and more priority to be placed on retaining the region’s graduates, as well as recruiting them from elsewhere.

Gallagher said: “Today is a particularly important day for Manchester – the combination of devolution and strong leadership will create huge opportunities for the region’s digital and tech sector.

“Devolution gives us a real opportunity to change the structure behind business support, have greater control over education and skills, and to ensure that the industry fulfils its potential.

“However, the public sector has traditionally struggled to keep pace with our industry and make meaningful interventions.”

Manchester Digital stressed the importance of developing and maintaining direct dialogue with the mayor to ensure that the voice of the industry is heard and decisions are made from the bottom up.

Gallagher added: “It’s vital that bureaucracy is cut and the industry is given the opportunity to deliver what it needs in a more meaningful and direct way. We are the largest representative body of digital and technology businesses in Greater Manchester and we draw the whole digital ecosystem together – from start-ups and SMEs, to large corporates – meaning we can foster business collaboration in a unique way that drives the sector forward.”