What’s next for the Oxford Road Corridor Innovation District?

Tuesday, 19th November 2019

The Oxford Road Corridor Innovation District covers just one square mile in the south of Manchester but accounts for 20% of the city’s GVA (£3.6bn) and 50% of the innovation assets of the Greater Manchester region. Clearly there is something pretty special about the district, so we brought together some of the key players to share their insights.

Melanie Thompson, at hosts and sponsors Crowne Plaza Oxford Road and Staybridge Suites (soon to be rebranded as the first Hyatt Regency and Hyatt House in the north), welcomed delegates to the event. Based centrally within the innovation district, the hotel is keen to integrate with the community and works closely with neighbouring businesses and institutions.

Ilona Alcock, sector group manager at pro-manchester, welcomed Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, to the stage. He shared a few further facts with the audience:

– The innovation district is home to 42,000 residents (a 28% increase since 2012) with 8,000 residential units in the pipeline
– It currently employs 79,000 people (an 11% growth since 2015) with a further 37,800 jobs planned by 2025
– There are 8,800 businesses in the district (a 61% increase since 2012) and an additional 2.5m square foot of commercial floorspace planned

Sir Richard credits the success of the district to the strength of the underlying triple-helix partnership. It is rare to find universities open to working together, let alone also with the Council, hospitals and the private sector. The desire of all parties to work together to make Manchester as a whole more successful has enabled the rate of growth seen.

Ilona invited the panellists to join the stage to join Sir Richard:

– Tom Renn, MD of Bruntwood SciTech and MSP
– Professor Helen Laville, Pro Vice Chancellor for Education at Manchester Metropolitan University
– Professor Fiona Devine, Head of Alliance Manchester Business School
– Catherine Davidson, Head of Life Sciences at MIDAS

Collaboration is key to the success of the partnership. What has made that possible?

“We have an incredible ecosystem and amazing partnerships with work across the public and private sector divide, as well as fantastic political leadership” says Fiona Devine.

Tom Renn agrees, saying, “All the partners come together for bids and pitches and work together for opportunities. These are the core ingredients, with community and placemaking efforts assisting in drawing more activity and raising the Corridor’s profile.”

Is there an ambition to broaden the key sectors and strengths of the innovation district?

Fiona highlighted the importance of the University’s commitment to being interdisciplinary. Businesses works closely with colleagues across the higher education institutions in Manchester which helps to drive the innovation for the Corridor. Helen agrees, reminding delegates that Manchester has the fastest-growing digital sector outside of London.

The panellists discussed the fact that having an innovation district which embraces multiple sectors will only serve to enhance the region’s profile.

There is a huge skills gap in the city region. Who is going to fill all these new roles?

“We’re recognising that we’re in a fast-paced world. We’re sometimes too wedded to devising packages that are no longer relevant. We’re making curriculums that are faster and more able to adapt,” says Helen.

“Companies who will be moving to the likes of Circle Square want to bring other roles to Manchester to leverage the quality of life and take advantage of the business environment.” says Tom.

Catherine regularly speaks to businesses looking to move into the region and the availability of talent and liveability of the city are both key.

What are the main challenges and how are we addressing them?

Tom referenced the increased competition and investment losses due to economic uncertainty, but remains confident that but these challenges will be met head on and overcome. Sir Richard agreed and voiced his concerns over the impact of Brexit already felt, and potential impact if and when the UK leaves the EU.

Ilona thanked the speakers and attendees, and invited everyone to join the evening reception in the Staybridge Suites lounge, overlooking the district, to continue the conversations.

Please join us on 22nd January for Sir Richard Leese’s annual pro-manchester Lunch: https://www.pro-manchester.co.uk/event/lunch-with-sir-richard-leese-2/