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Five Things You Need To Know About Greater Manchester's New Industrail Strategy

Greater Manchester has a new industrial strategy. Drafted by the city-region's Combined Authority, under the guidance of Metro Mayor Andy Burnham, and now approved by the UK government, it is an ambitious exercise in the long-lost 1970s art of regional economic planning.

So what does it mean for property, and when will the real estate sector begin to feel its effects?

I count four, not five, areas.

The strategy considers Greater Manchester’s strengths in five main areas: health innovation; advanced materials; digitalcreative and media; and clean growth.

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Regional economic planning was big news from the 1960s to the 1980s. But the Thatcher governments turned against the idea. Short-term, piecemeal intervention in poorer towns and cities replaced long-term thinking about how regions outside London could succeed.

Now, under the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, regional economic planning is back. Sort of. This month the new Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy was approved by the UK Government after two years of work, including a 2019 Independent Prosperity Review, and a 2016 Science and Innovation Audit.

You can find a copy here. This is what you need to know about it.

1. It's Not Just About Carbon

Most of the headlines have been about the region's plans to go carbon neutral by 2038 ahead of a UK deadline of 2050. But the new strategy goes much further than the carbon objective.

The strategy considers Greater Manchester’s strengths in five main areas: health innovation; advanced materials; digitalcreative and media; and clean growth. It also suggests how the city region should strengthen its position on the five foundations of productivity: ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and places.

2. Big Demographic Opportunities

The attention grabber is age, because age-related health is at the centre of the new strategy.

Greater Manchester will become a global leader on health and care innovation — creating new industries and jobs, improving population health and extending healthy life expectancy.

As the UK’s first World Health Organisation Age-Friendly city-region, Greater Manchester plans to lead the rest of the world. There will be a new innovation partnership on healthy ageing and the region will identify a home for a prospective international centre for healthy ageing to drive real-world testing and commercialisation of health, care and wellbeing innovations that support healthy ageing.

3. Graphene

Graphene, pioneered in Manchester, is the best-known element in a constellation of new advanced manufacturing materials and techniques. Manchester plans to be the go-to place for advanced manufacturing, and has already won government backing for the plan. Next steps involve a new Graphene, Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Alliance with the government on the board. There will also be work to create an ecosystem that supports next-generation manufacturing capabilities.

4. Digital Ecosystem

If work on the advanced manufacturing ecosystem is in its early days, work on the digital ecosystem is well advanced with developments like the Sharp Project leading the way. Expect a lot more of this, with the need for a lot more floorspace. The government is backing a biennial international showcase of Manchester's digital and creative talent. It is the digital element of the plan that is likely to impact most rapidly on the commercial property market, largely because the sector is already so well-established.

5. This Isn't The End

There are still two more important documents to come. One will be the implementation plan. This will show what each of the 10 Greater Manchester local authorities will actually do. The region is promised "clear milestones, deliverables and timings," according to a report considered by councillors this week. The implementation plan will be reviewed annually.

Meanwhile, the region is also waiting for the City of Manchester's own bespoke version of the connurbation-wide document. Called "Developing a More Inclusive Economy – Our Manchester Industrial Strategy" it will be brought to council committees for approval in July.

This is shaping up to be an interesting political battleground, because the council are determined to push for "inclusive" growth. By implication this is a critique of Manchester City Council's city-centre focused economic strategy until now.