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We’re delighted that the Innovation Manchester blog has moved to a new home at the new Manchester: Knowledge Capital website. We’ll continue to blog about innovation and interesting stories from Manchester so come and join us at


The epic journey that an entire city can go through is phenomenal.  And the great thing is, we don’t just get to observe it – we can all be part of it, and help to lead it too.

It was in 2005 that Manchester: Knowledge Capital first published its vision for an “Innovation Ecosystem” approach to developing a truly innovative city region.  The point of this approach was to encompass the complexity of real life.  National innovation policy was trailing behind what many innovative organisations already knew: that innovation does not just happen in a laboratory, that innovators and entrepreneurs do not act in isolation, and their work is the product of social, economic, and cultural forces.  

A thorough, ‘total environment’ approach to nurturing innovation means that a whole smorgasbord of inter-dependent factors has to be considered, including talented people, skills, risk finance, physical infrastructure, business support services, networks and partnerships to build up relational capital and strategic connectivity, and the intangible cultural “buzz” of the city.

In the past 5 years Manchester has moved forward in leaps, bounds, and the odd stumble.  And most importantly, this is not a story of any one organisation – it never could be. It’s a story about the talent and the spirit of partnership in our great city.  

We have far greater choice for business incubation, with the Core Technology Facility, Innospace, Salford Innovation Forum, and ever-developing work of Manchester Science Park; and the city has won national strategic bids such as the Biomedical Research Facility.  Major city developments including the Corridor and MediaCityUK are escalating our position in the UK and internationally.  There have been countless successes on the part of innovative businesses and world-leading researchers.

We’ve had a UK first in the form of the Manchester Innovation Investment Fund, supporting pilots and experiments to boost the city region’s capacity for innovation.  The Innovation Manchester network and the Innovation Boardroom are steadily transforming the landscape in which our business and civic leaders can collaborate, generate great ideas for mutual benefit, and turn them into action.  And in 2009 Manchester won a global award for Most Admired Knowledge City Region, recognising its outstanding journey so far.  

It’s also cheering to hear people like Will Hutton, of The Work Foundation and journalism fame, extol the virtues of the Innovation Ecosystem approach and the importance of developing a knowledge-based economy.  Will visited Manchester earlier this week, and is working on a report on the future of British cities for the Core Cities Group

Despite the obvious progress, we all know that we’ve got a long way to go before we can call ourselves a truly innovative place.  Anyone who’s visited one the handful of places in the world that really get it right, knows that Manchester needs at least another 10 years, focused effort, and a big dollop of serendipity before we can really say we’ve arrived. 

And I think the fuel for that journey will be the loyalty that Manchester generates – it’s a great city and I know a lot of people reading this will continue to play their part in making it better and better.

Who’s got time for innovation? How many of us deliberately take the time to sit back, look at what we’re doing, and think about ways to do it better or do something else?

The classic problem with many organisations is that everyone is working so hard on today’s crisis or this month’s targets that they never feel that they can take the time to think about anything else. The end result is that we end up doing ‘more of the same’ each and every day – instead of trying anything new. And that’s a not going to support our competitive edge in the long run.

Famously, companies like 3M and Google are very open about this. When you work for Google your employment contract allows you to spend one day a week on any idea you like. It’s a wide open space – a space for experimenting, exploring and developing breakthrough ideas like Google Earth and Gmail that have helped to keep that company at the top of its game.

Many organisations can’t afford to give employees that much exploration time – but the general principle is of fundamental importance to all of us.

We need to set aside time to come up with ideas and explore them, and leaders need to make sure that employees feel empowered to do this. Staring into space for half an hour can sometimes be far more productive than ‘proper work’.

I have just come across this cartoon thanks to Stefan Lindegaard’s Continous Innovation Group.

As he says,”Internal forces are often the worst enemies of innovation.”

Innovation Cartoon

Innovation Cartoon

The UK’s economic success will depend upon its ability to commercialise and profit from research and ideas and to innovate in the service sector and creative.

Innovation was responsible for nearly 2/3 of private sector productivity growth in the UK between 2000-2007

That’s the conclusion of NESTA who earlier today launched its innovation index.

According to the research,UK businesses invested £133bn in innovation in 2007,representing 14 per cent  of private sector output. More than three-quarters of this came from “hidden innovation”, in areas other than research and development.

The index showed that a significant part of  innovative performance came not from the tradition area of R&D but areas such as design,organisational innovation and the development of innovative skills.

There was also a firm link between innovation and growth.

The study surveyed 1500 firms in the UK across nine sectors.

You can download a PDF of the full survey HERE

Technology and changes in technology play a very important role in innovation.

We often hear the words disruptive technology but what does it actually mean?

Disruptive technology is quite simply an innovation that destroys the value of an existing technology and creates new market for a particular product or service.

A disruptive innovation technology can create what is essentially a new industry or can harm a learning process for a particular industry. Some industries are better able to adapt due to their greater resources,skills and ability to gain access quickly to the new technology.

When a disruptive technology creates a new industry, competitors usually follow.

One example is the introduction of the steam ship.When they were first introduced ,steam ships  were not reliable enough to travel trans-Atlantic distances, they couldn’t travel far without breaking down, and they were inclined to blow up.



Steam ships were able to find a niche in lake and river transport, where the distances were short, and where they had the advantage of being able to travel against the wind and on wind-still days.

Whilst in the niche market they were able to work on improving the technology and soon the age of sail across the Atlantic was confined to leisure and the history books.

Bringing that example forwards to today and maybe E books are in the same situation.

They have failed so far to penetrate the reading market,Screen quality, user interface being the main problems.But they could find their niche in reference and journals where their cheapness and ease of publication will give them a competitive advantage.

Once their problems are ironed out maybe the book will go the way of the sail?

Here at Innovation Manchester we are looking forward to this year’s Manchester Science Festival.

Taking place from the 24th Oct to Nov 1st,it is the third time that the city has staged the event.

We are one of the festival’s partners and as part of the Walking With Robots series,Mon 26th  October sees the Robotics networking event.

This is for professionals working in the field of robotics and adjacent disciplines (science communication, design, programming, engineering, software, etc)

The event is by prior invite only.if you want to attend contact

It kicks off at 6.00 pm at MDDA

Innovation Manchester

Innovation Manchester is a dynamic and diverse network of innovators and entrepreneurs, working together to make Manchester a better place to do business. We’re making Manchester a global innovation leader by creating: - new connections - new business opportunities - radical city-wide solutions Be part of the innovation conversation - all you need is enthusiasm and original thinking.

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