Home » Northern tech firms call for regional digital investment fund

Northern tech firms call for regional digital investment fund

A group of tech companies in the north of England have called for the creation of a Manchester-based digital investment fund to help challenge the “dominance of London and the South East”.

Industry body Manchester Digital and several tech firms based in the north or with a significant northern presence – including Auto Trader, BT and Booking.com – have jointly called on Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to create a collaborative tech cluster for the region.

In its Manifesto for the Northern Tech Economy, the group called for Burnham to lead efforts to establish a “nexus” of political, academic and business leaders in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and other major hubs in the north.

The manifesto called for the establishment of a Regional Digital Investment Fund to direct cash into northern startups.

It also called for an annual international summit on northern tech and targeted support for industrial placements for emerging engineering talent. UKTN has contacted the Greater Manchester Combined Authority for comment.

“With the right investment, organisation and collaboration, northern cities have the potential to become Britain’s biggest tech hub,” said Manchester Digital chairperson and Auto Trader operations director Alison Ross.

Ross said the “Northern Tech Nexus” would serve as a “counterpoint to the dominance of London and the South East”.

Manchester Digital’s manifesto pointed to the massive student population in the region, from universities in Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool, as well as the 708 high-growth tech companies in those cities highlighted in a Barclays Eagle Labs report as evidence of the region’s potential.

“We see an opportunity to build a powerful northern tech ecosystem with Greater Manchester at its heart,” said Manchester Digital managing director Katie Gallagher.

“We want to work closely with the mayor to create a combined northern approach to tech growth and innovation, harnessing core strengths across different city regions to propel future growth on a larger scale.”

The bulk of funding for UK tech startups still goes to the dominant London and South East region of the country. And while the government has made efforts to improve regional equality, local leaders have expressed frustration at the lack of results.

Jess Jackson, investment manager at the northern VC firm Praetura Ventures, said on the UKTN Podcast in March that despite the levelling up narrative from the government, the north does not “feel prioritised”.

“We’ve now become very scrappy as a result of that. Going out and getting what we need ourselves and building it ourselves as much as we’re able to,” Jackson said.

Read more: Regional tech report: Greater Manchester