Foundations for the future: Manchester Focus
As Salford’s massive new MediaCity complex begins to take shape, Katie Gallagher, business development manager for the Creative Industries at Manchester’s Investment & Development Agency, MIDAS, looks at where the creative sector in Manchester is nowSalford’s mediacity:uk was officially launched to the world last week, as the creative industries were cordially invited to the site of the multi-million pound development. The impact the investment will have on the north west is expected to be vast, especially to companies based in Manchester – a city that has held a strong creative reputation for many years. From TV production to animation, website design to e-commerce, advertising to multimedia communications, Manchester’s creative industries are thriving. But where will the next 60 years take us? Does the city have the potential to become a major global hub for the creative and digital sectors? Manchester’s increasing success over the last ten years has seen the city take its place on the world stage as a Top 10 European business location. A transformation recently recognised in the FT’s 2008 FDi Locations of the Future, where we were ranked eighth ahead of Barcelona and Madrid. Manchester has also been hailed as the UK’s ‘creative capital’ by think-tank Demos and has seen a market growth in the creative industries of 47 percent in 2007 – making it one of the fastest growing sectors in the region. Employing over 64,000 people over 5,800 businesses, Manchester is already a major centre for the creative, digital, new media and broadcast industries. Manchester is Europe’s second largest broadcast production facility and digital content producer. Such is the growth of the region’s Broadcast industry that it is now Britain’s biggest regional production community making over 11 percent of all network programmes. Major brandsA major centre for advertising and marketing - over 40 percent of regional advertising and marketing in the UK is placed through Manchester agencies – the city region boasts an impressive roll-call of major brands that have been handled in the city, including GHD, Lexus, Coca-Cola and British Airways. Recognising the importance of Manchester’s broad spectrum of creative disciplines, D&AD North, the only regional office outside of London, annually showcases The Best Advertising & Design in the World at the iconic Urbis. Meanwhile Manchester has also become home to 1,700 firms employing 10,000 people within the digital industries, many of them successful homegrown agencies such as Code Computerlove, Smoothe, Amaze and McCann Erikson handling work for major international clients. At the current rate of growth it is predicted that employment within Manchester’s digital sector will increase by 15,000 jobs by 2015. MIDAS has seen a record number of top international digital and new media companies locating to, or reinvesting in the city region over the past two years including Google, Magnetic North, Cisco, Microsoft and Yahoo!. Crucially the city is home to a budding wealth of local agencies and a large freelance talent pool – 46 percent of designers in Manchester are self-employed – and it is this mix of indigenous creativeness coupled with investment from global media players that is making Manchester one of the most dynamic creative clusters in Europe. Recent success stories include that of BAFTA award winning computer graphics and visual effects company RedVision which has recently become independent again after a successful MBO. Established in Manchester in 1995, the company has had recent success with ITV animation hit ‘Headcases’ which, says MD Dave Mousley, was one of the biggest productions outside London to utilise so many freelancers. The company has formed an international network of facilities called Virtual Superstudio – a partnership between RedVision and companies in Australia and Canada – which enable the partnership to take on major international projects. With work for National Geographic already under their belt and an animated feature on its way, as well as a major series for the Discovery Channel, RedVision estimate that there will be 150 employees at their Manchester office this year. Digital connectivity What does the future hold for Manchester? As MIDAS chief executive Colin Sinclair notes, ‘Manchester has the graduate talent pool, connectivity to London, and the Airport but the competition is fierce. We need to look at digital connectivity and upskilling our existing workforce – key elements in creating any kind of 21st century industry hub. It is also vital that we go ahead with the £3bn investment in public transport infrastructure that the Transport Innovation Fund will bring. Good public transport is vital for business. It will position us amongst Europe’s elite cities. This 21st century transport vision will carry bright ambitious workers in their thousands to new locations like mediacity:uk at Salford Quays and other creative hubs across the region.’ The future for creative sector locations in the city region looks very exciting. There is no doubt that mediacity:uk – the most significant media development in the UK - will have a huge impact on Manchester’s creative industries. Occupying a strategic location at the heart of The Quays, this development will become the country’s first designated digital and creative community. The five key BBC departments relocating by 2011 will take up just part of the whole development - it will be home to large and small companies in broadcasting, new media and technology. At its heart will be the most advanced studio block in the UK with over 215,000 sq ft of office, production and post production space. Building has commenced and the site is already home to 40 companies already enjoying the facilities at mediacity:uk. By the time it is completed mediacity:uk will add 3000 broadcast hours to regional broadcast production. Inspire creativeIain Bennett, NWDA’s sector leader for the Digital and Creative industries considers it a ‘once in a generation opportunity to make a transformational change. Nowhere else in the world have we got a major private sector company investing its own money in a development of this kind.’ Brian Greasley, MD at mediacity:uk asserts “mediacity:uk is unique and will change the face of media in the 21st Century, becoming a vibrant nucleus that will not only house the BBC’s new flagship production facilities, but will accommodate and inspire creative and new media businesses from all over the world.” But it is not just mediacity:uk that is providing space for the city region’s growing creative sector. Central Park, developed by Ask:Goodman and located at the east end of Manchester city centre, has the capacity to offer more than 5m sq ft of commercial office space. The first phase already houses Fujitsu and One Central Park – a world class research, development and training centre for technology-based businesses. Central Park has also been selected as the location for a major investment in the visual effects and animation industry. Manchester City Council is developing technical and studio facilities to assist the growing number of animation companies looking for accommodation suitable to meet their growing pipeline of work. Work begins this year on fitting a 250,000 sq ft building with high performance computing facilities including motion capture and green screen. Other locations include city centre development First Street which will include 19 new buildings near the Mancunian Way, while the Quay Street development - based on the existing ITV Granada site - offers access to the broadcast infrastructure and support systems that are readily available and at present, home to many of the city region’s broadcast and post production businesses. What is crucial is ensuring that we have the right talent and skills-base to help propel the industry forward. Manchester boasts the largest student population in Europe and a commuter population of over 7m. Almost 300 media courses are on offer to students at the 22 universities within 60 minutes drive time of Manchester. In the city region itself, more than 6,000 undergraduates are studying for creative and media related courses at any one time and another 6,000 are studying IT related courses. MIDAS works closely with universities, training providers and other agencies, such as North West Vision and Media, to help identify training initiatives to meet the needs of local employers. Traditionally, industry standard training hasn’t always been easy to find outside London and the South East. However with the recent £2.8million fund set up by Northwest Vision and Media, digital and media training initiatives are being put in place to bridge the gap between traditional training and business on the ground to ensure skills are practical, relevant and focused. Manchester’s vast student population and 115,000 graduates from 22 Universities and Higher Education Institutions entering the workforce each year makes it easy to recruit and retain the freshest creative talent. But there is more to be done and more partnerships to be made to ensure that students wish to stay in the region and are equipped with the skills the creative industry employers are looking for. Overall Manchester continues to be in a strong position when compared to its European counterparts. Manchester offers the UK’s largest regional talent pool, established networking groups and value-for-money studio and office facilities. The city offers great connectivity with excellent rail and road links and direct flights from the airport to more than 200 destinations worldwide. Dual AimAt MIDAS, we are working with Manchester’s creative sector to help promote Manchester as a world class city for the creative industries. Moving forward our dual aim is to attract even more inward investment whilst fostering the already vibrant homegrown independent creative sector. In a still London-centric media industry, attitudes towards Greater Manchester and the ‘North need to be broken down. Manchester should be seen as a complementary offer to London. By taking a proactive approach to promoting the outstanding work carried out in the region, the arrival of the BBC and the amazing developments already taking shape around mediacity:uk are beginning to counter this. There is still work to do to create the sector hub but Manchester shouldn’t be afraid to blow its own trumpet. It is a truly creative capital, the original modern city, and we need to shout about it.