Devolution a done deal. In the past it’s been hard to sit in a room with Greater Manchester’s leaders without the conversation drifting towards the devolution agenda, with a few gripes at Westminster along the way. However the D word was barely mentioned this year, and the only panel with ‘Devolution’ in the title focused more on that other, important D – diversity. Is it all a sign that after the election of Andy Burnham the city is pushing forward without the help of the capital? That other big word, Brexit, seemed to have all but drifted out of conversation. Is the region just kicking on regardless? Or are this week’s MIPIMers just too busy to worry?
B2B. While Burnham was one of the Mayors conspicuously absent from the glad-handing at MIPIM, another Manchester B, Sir Howard Bernstein, made a return to Cannes, albeit relatively quietly. The former city council chief showed restraint by only appearing on the Manchester stand once, alongside his favourite protégé, Gary Neville. Fears that Bernstein would be a backseat driver to successor Joanne Roney were put to rest; Roney was confident, visible, and while she left MIPIM early on Thursday, it was so she could arrive back in time to launch the city’s HS2 strategy.
Disruption is the key word of #mipim today. From disrupting the housing market this morning session @HomesEngland to this fab session @mcrMIPIM about @TraffordCouncil exciting plans @GNev2 to disrupt HE education with UA92 at heart of Regen #impressive stuff pic.twitter.com/cxsvuOw7Tw
— Joanne Roney OBE (@joanneroney) March 14, 2018
Collaboration with meaning. There’s always talk about how lovely collaboration is, and the idea that Manchester, Liverpool and Cheshire’s science and tech assets be pooled and promoted together globally is sound – none alone is strong enough to duke it out with Oxford, Cambridge and London’s Golden Triangle. There’s some substance being added to this, with Knowledge Quarter Liverpool’s Colin Sinclair nudging things along. The North West Business Leadership Team is prepared to back a combined effort, and the coming months should see an action plan emerge – a round table hosted by Arup yesterday contributed thoughts, with the drive seen by Metro Mayors Rotheram and Burnham believed to be crucial.
Stand and deliver. Post-2008, it has become accepted wisdom that UK city stands should deliver a packed programme of sessions, with updates on key developments and panels looking at big topics. It’s a part of the “this is work, not a jolly” justification. But is the appetite really there any more for quite so many sessions? The big speakers still draw a crowd, but thought leadership sessions are poorly attended, and are drowned out by enthusiastic networking. Plenty of big global cities don’t bother with much in the way of intellectual content, and don’t appear to suffer for it. Perhaps the punters really do just want models of shiny towers.
Tech to an extent. MIPIM is holding its inaugural PropTech Europe conference in June, having launched the brand in New York last autumn, and the Innovation Forum has been noticeably busier and larger than in previous years. The exhibitor list in the techie zone was pretty heavy on VR operators and smart-home technologies, neither a great surprise, while big hitting European names such as Siemens and Schindler in particular, had a heavy presence. Tip – you’ll be seeing elevator doors that double as advertising screens in a hotel near you soon.
United front in Liverpool. Mention of the word “united” doesn’t always go down well in Liverpool, although the exit of the Manchester club from the Champions League was greeted with some merriment at Liverpool’s dinner on Tuesday. Mayor Joe Anderson flew in for a whirlwind 24 hours, during which much of the city’s MIPIM content was packed in, with both he and Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram keen to stress how well their professional relationship is functioning. They combined well, although the diplomatic requirement to allow each to speak before every session felt a bit much. At least neither dipped into Max Steinberg’s joke book, though.
Green agenda. A notable thread running through a number of presentations at this year’s Manchester stand was a focus on building an eco-friendly city. From Chris Oglesby’s presentation on City of Trees, to Tom Fenton of Far East Consortium making the case for a green corridor from NOMA to Heaton Park, there was a growing commitment from civic leaders and developers to improving the city’s open spaces. What’s more, cycling guru Chris Boardman took to the stand to outline how Greater Manchester could become one of the best cities for cycling in the world. Following on the heels of a Sustrans report making a similar case earlier in the year, there is momentum behind the plans to make the borough greener and residents fitter.