Last Thursday, Andy Burnham, the first elected Mayor of Greater Manchester, hosted a Digital Summit at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. The event was hugely oversubscribed and two remote events took place in Stockport and Oldham, both receiving a live stream of the event with attendees able to join the debate via the MeeToo app.
There were three panel sessions, each with a pretty stellar line up. Highlights included the morning session at which a group of Manchester business leaders, including AO World’s John Roberts, made it very clear that they’re not ‘digital businesses’, rather that digital is a tool. And based on the success stories on show, they use that tool very effectively.
A series of interactive workshops were expertly managed by Campbell Tickell partner Radojka Miljevic, and were based around questions posed by delegates through the conference app.
A second panel on ‘Making a Difference with Digital’ was a personal highlight for me. Contributions from Dr Maria Stukoff of Maker Space Salford on the importance of building a manufacturing base around tech and digital, as well as the need for more women in the sector (because, simply, they are better at most things and excel at digital design and innovation).
UK Fast’s Lawrence Jones talked passionately about the need for the private sector to not only take on apprentices but also to invest in training and education for young people – highlighting the millions of the organisation’s own funds that have been put back into the system to help support the development of young talent.
The next industrial revolution
The final panel session focussed on ‘Disruptive and Emerging Innovations’. Jurgen Maier of Siemens UK was a stand-out panellist among a very strong line-up.
He talked about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and how the UK has to rise to new challenges – particularly around manufacturing: fewer jobs, higher value jobs, fundamental changes coming to all sectors, with digital the driver regardless of the sector.
With echoes of the morning panel, he emphasised that digital and tech are tools; they cross sectors, and their impact is everywhere.
A message from the Mayor
Andy Burnham made clear that he intends to provide the political leadership for Greater Manchester’s digital agenda, but that he wants us – the public and private stakeholders – to drive it forward with him.
He also announced that he will be reconvening with a second summit later in the year, on the 7th of December, to present (I hope) a more detailed plan and road map based on the kick start that last week’s meeting provided. CityVerve clearly has a big role to play in the coming months here in Manchester.
Finally, a last takeaway for me – and it’s about Andy Burnham himself. What really stood out for me, and lots of people I spoke to on the day, was the fact that he was there for the duration: he joined in workshops, he did far more listening than talking and, over the whole day, I saw him on the phone only once and rarely with it in his hands.
In a room full of people alternating between looking, listening and – inevitably – tweeting, checking emails and so on, Andy Burnham was 100% focussed on the conversations in the room.
Full credit to him for that. I’m looking forward to December’s session already.