Leese heads NW tech trip to SXSW

While Manchester City Council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein made his annual voyage to the south of France for MIPIM, Sir Richard Leese led a separate delegation to South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, to promote technology businesses in the region.

Perhaps better known as an annual music festival showcasing upcoming artists, South by Southwest, or SXSW in its short-form brand, has evolved to feature fringe events including a global tech convention.

Tech North and Manchester’s CityVerve Internet of Things project were among the region’s representatives to fly out for the five-day South by Southwest Interactive gathering, due to run from Friday 10 March until Wednesday 15 March. Tech North, part of the Tech City UK initiative funded by Department for Culture, Media & Sport, accompanied start-ups including video data company Living Lens and virtual toy maker Swap Bots, both based in Liverpool, to SXSW. See video of day one below.


A high-level delegation from Manchester, including council leader Sir Richard Leese, travelled to the US to showcase the region as the UK’s Internet of Things Smart Cities demonstrator. Manchester is visiting other cities as part of a roadshow finishing in New York on Thursday. The aim is to facilitate trade, investment, joint venture and R&D collaborations.

The public-private partnership showcasing the region includes Jacobs Engineering, which is working on smart cities infrastructure and transport; Manchester Science Partnerships, whose Oxford Road campus is home to the CityVerve consortium which won £10m from government to pilot Internet of Things solutions for improved services in cities.

The University of Manchester will be profiling its interdisciplinary Manchester Urban Institute which generates research from across the arts and humanities, the social sciences, business and health. The delegation is led by Midas, Manchester’s inward investment agency, and part of the Manchester Growth Company, whose aim is to promote the region as a global destination for innovation and investment.

Sir Richard Leese said: “Smart cities are harnessing new technologies to improve the lives of their citizens and Manchester is determined to be in the forefront of this revolution. This event is an important showcase for the work we are doing and another opportunity to spread the message on a global stage that we are a forward-looking city and a great place to invest.”

Ross Powell, director of operations, Jacobs Engineering, said: “We are looking at connecting new technologies to enhance the performance and longevity of existing and new infrastructure assets for local, national and international clients. Manchester’s challenges and opportunities are replicated across the globe so maximising the value of the creative, digital and technical cluster is fundamental to ensuring our continued success in the engineering and professional services space. SXSW gives us a fantastic opportunity to engage with entrepreneurs, start-ups, academia and other city regions, and look for opportunities to solve our client’s challenges to make our cities more successful and prosperous places to live and work.”

Tim Newns, chief executive officer, Midas, said: “Manchester’s significant creative, digital and tech industry is the second largest in the UK and presents significant opportunities for international markets like the US. This sector alone contributes £3.1bn GVA annually and in 2016, over 1,600 tech start-ups formed in the city region, residing in our vibrant tech hubs such as MediaCityUK, the Northern Quarter, the Sharp Project, MSP and St Johns. As the UK’s IoT demonstrator city, it is important for us to connect with other leading cities in that field at this year’s SXSW. In our ambition to become a truly global digital city, the launch of the direct flight route to San Francisco later this month also provides us with more opportunities to connect with tech leaders in the US. Already operating over 100 weekly flights to US cities including New York, Atlanta and Houston, Manchester is within easy reach of US companies looking to expand into the UK.”

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We should host a similar event based on Manchester International Festival for emerging band & music – this could run biennial on the year MIF doesn’t take place.

By Mark H

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