Posts Tagged ‘innovation

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.


There is some serious talent  on the streets and in the bedrooms of Manchester.  Young people with the kind of creativity we would give our right arm for, Manchester’s future is in their hands.

A teacher I met at the BBC 21st Century Classroom in Salford, told me about his 15 year old student (let’s call him John) who made £5 here, £10 there, by designing My Space pages for his friends. The teacher was frustrated at not having the ability to help John take his digital talent to the next level, nor access to appropriate business start up advice for this teen entrepreneur. When asked what he would do after his GCSE’s, John told the teacher that he’d follow into his father’s shopfitting business, he didn’t consider college, work in the creative sector, or starting his own business as possible options.

To be clear, I am in no way critical of John’s choice. Good design is needed in the physical world as well as the digital (if not more so!).  However,  I do think the story raises the question of how we best nurture young talent, both in and outside schools.

I like the idea of business advisors having surgeries in schools and youth clubs, helping young people to think about markets for their ideas, before they get squelched by the ‘real world’.  I’d love to hear of any case studies where this works (or doesn’t).

We’re lucky to live in a city like Manchester, where projects and partners are aiming to resolve  some of these issues.  Robots have been built at the  MADLAB,  and last year Innovation Manchester and the Manchester Innovation Investment Fund supported Creative Open Access – growing the inner geek in some of Manchester’s brightest young people.

Now a new course, also to be held at Cornerhouse, will not only nurture creativity in 18-24 year olds, but also introduce the skills to progress a career in the creative industries

At the core of the scheme, the kids at the App School will develop their ideas for an iPhone ‘app’, and they’ll work on those ideas throughout the programme. In addition, they’ll get training on things such as project management, team-working, presenting their work, and business & financial management. At the very end of the scheme, they’ll be pitching their ideas through to a panel of some of the city’s best creative companies – who, if they like what they see, will be able to offer them internships. If the ideas are good, the companies will actually create the ‘app’ as a joint venture.

If you know of any young people in Manchester, please help spread the word!

The course is being run by The White Room, in partnership with Manchester City Council, MMU, and Cornerhouse, and applications close next Sunday, 21st February.

I got a chance to visit the inspiring Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at MOSI a few days ago. The word polymath is perhaps over-used these days – certainly a man of da Vinci’s incredibly diverse talents still puts most of the human race into the shade.

He believed, absolutely, that there is no art without science. His intense curiosity about the world around him led him to be a painter, engineer, inventor, musician, scientist and mathematician.

Leonardo da vinci

Leonardo da vinci

I think that is more difficult today. A few hundred years ago, different branches of science and philosophy were more closely intertwined, and scholars often crossed over between what we would now consider to be disparate branches of knowledge. As world knowledge grew, specialisms developed and the sciences (what we would now broadly distinguish as biology, chemistry & physics) grew apart from each other and from the arts and humanities.

With this came culture change – and not in a good way. In the national mindset, arts and sciences became two foreign lands: arts people would perfectly happily confess their ignorance of scientific matters, and scientists would do likewise with art and philosophy. It became OK to be selectively ignorant.

This led to the novelist and scientist CP Snow to give his famous “Two Cultures” lecture in 1959, out of pure frustration with the way that otherwise intelligent and knowledgeable people would put up imaginary barriers to their wider learning.

Innovation often happens ‘at the edges’ – the interface between different groups or sectors or disciplines – but we often have to achieve this despite of our standard school curriculum and national culture.  I generalise of course. But there’s much more we could do to bring different arts and science disciplines together. I vote that as a nation we start mixing things up a lot more. It’ll be fun, educational and productive – what more could you ask?

How important are networks and communities in building successful markets? It’s a question that anyone looking at this year’s Nobel prize for economic sciences just has to ask themselves.

Professor Elinor Ostrom is the first woman to win the prize. She’s been recognised for her work on “the Commons” – meaning anything that’s collectively owned, such as common land.

Before Elinor came along, conventional economic theory was that if there is a commonly-owned resource, the people who own it will always act individually in their own self-interest – and ultimately damage or destroy the whole resource, so that everybody loses. It’s a pretty sorry reflection of the human race.

She challenged this dogma. She showed that commons can in fact be managed in a way that leads to shared prosperity, if the individuals using it can develop the right methods and institutions to manage it.

In recent years her work has been proven by many of you reading this. If you’ve used ‘open source’ software, you’re part of a self-policing network that allows commonly-owned assets to be used widely, rather than used up. By acting as a community rather than a set of individuals, everybody wins.

There must be products and services other than software that this could apply to – I’d love to hear your views.

We are!

Today, in Schenzen China, Manchester has officially been declared the Most Admired Knowledge City-Region in the World!

An international panel of experts have today named Manchester ‘The Most Admired Knowledge City Region’ at the MAKCi global awards ceremony in Schenzen, China, topping other city regions such as Bangalore and Valencia.

The judges commended Manchester’s connectivity, culture, civic identity and overall quality of life. Manchester also scored highly for the way in which it has built on its heritage and its radical, ethical and sustainable core values. Whilst remaining true to these values, as a city we have continued along a trajectory of renewal and transformation, into the highly creative and innovative city we are today, leading the way in the 21st Century.

Dr Cathy Garner, CEO of Manchester: Knowledge Capital, said:
“This award is fantastic recognition of  Manchester: Knowledge Capital’s achievements over the past five years. The Manchester: Knowledge Capital partnership enables the city region to capitalise on its outstanding universities, the creativity of its people and its capacity for world-changing innovation. Through Innovation Manchester, we are continuing to build an even stronger future for the Manchester City Region.”

If conversation is key to innovation, then events like BarCamp play an important role in our Innovation Ecosystem.

Innovation Manchester members may be interested to know that on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8th November, a BarCamp will be held at the Contact Theatre.

BarCamp Manchester 2 is an open, free-to-attend, participatory 2-day unconference. Unconferences differ from normal conferences in that the schedule is created and filled by the attendees with everyone running a session or talk about whatever subject they have a passion for. From Cocktail Making to Programming for Beginners, from Arduino Hacking to Photography, BarCamps attract people from all sorts of backgrounds, each sharing their expertise and experiences.

BarCamp attendees come from all walks of life and ages 8-80; what they have in common is a passion for stimulating conversations and expanding their own knowledge. They love to give back to the community and a BarCamp is the perfect place to do this.

BarCamp attendees are not only the great thinkers of today, but the great thinkers of tomorrow. They are excited by the diversity of discussions and insights that are achieved in the intellectual melting pot that is BarCamp.

Additionally, if you know anyone who might like to sponsor the event, you can get in touch with the organisers through us here at Innovation Manchester. Sponsorship options range from £100 upwards, or provision of food, drinks, t-shirts etc. Options are very flexible!

Thanks for reading – please feel free to add to this discussion and tell us what you would talk about, or like to hear at an Unconference. Please feed back your experience (& photo’s) of the event, or even better, your talk there! Enjoy!

An exciting and varied debate about the future, at the Manchester CoMixed discussion.

A series of provocations on the scientific challenges of our time including Climate Change, Digital Economy, Ageing, Food Security and Nanotechnology. Thoughts are remixed into a cooperative production by the Manchester Beacon’s network of people, places and knowledge.

Panellists include:

  • Warren Bramley (Creative Director at Four23)
  • Dr. Martyn Amos (Principle Investigator on Nano-Info-Bio, Manchester Metropolitan University)
  • Professor Remco Polman (Director of Centre for Applied Sport and Exercise Sciences, Principal Investigator Medical Research Council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Grant)
  • Professor Callum Thomas (Professor of Sustainable Aviation, Centre for Air Transport and the Environment, OMEGA, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Professor John Whittle (Professor of Software Engineering, Lancaster Business School)
  • Kate Bailey (Senior Research Associate, Cardiff Business School)

John Whittle is currently talking about a vision of the future where we can see into peoples minds, and understand what makes them tick. A previous ‘twitter sceptic’, John now sees twitter as an early indicator of future technology that will increase mutual understanding and relationships in society.

My favourite quote so far is from Martin Amos, and his assertion that “Bio-Hacking already happens in people’s kitchens”.

Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

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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