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Bruntwood Spies A Deal: GCHQ Arrive in Manchester As Landlord Appeals To Global Tech

GCHQ, the U.K. government's top secret communications interception and cybersecurity organisation, has taken its first small steps into the Manchester property market, signing up for 1K SF with Manchester Science Partnerships.

Is this the start of a new wave of tech investment in central Manchester as worldwide talent checks out the city's property prospects?

Citylabs, Manchester

GCHQ has taken its first modest step into Manchester real estate. The Cheltenham-based government listening post has agreed a joint venture with partners Cisco and Wayra will help them tap into the brightest software engineering startups in the U.K. — and by "tap into" they probably mean work with, rather than spy on. The launch of what they call an ‘engineer accelerator’ in the heart of Manchester is the first partnership of its kind for GCHQ, who plan to open a much larger Manchester office in summer 2019.

Applications are now open for software engineering startups to join the new three-month programme which will be an integral part of developing GCHQ methodologies and capabilities.

The programme will give up to six startups time with world-class personnel and technological expertise from across GCHQ, enabling them to expand their capability, improve their business and further develop their cutting-edge products in areas including machine learning, automation and data engineering.

statement from Cisco included a quote from GCHQ's director of technology, a former Manchester engineering graduate who was not named for security reasons. The CGHQ official said: “Manchester gave me some of the best years of my life as an engineering undergraduate. Back then, I saw first-hand how brilliant the technology talent was in the North West. It puts Manchester right into the heart of our mission to keep the U.K. and our digital homeland safe and secure.”

The location and scale of the new Manchester GCHQ office is unclear but local sources have reported a requirement in the order of 50K SF and a narrow range of choices, with out of town locations under consideration.

Manchester Science Partnerships' Tom Renn

The GCHQ deal is unveilled as Manchester Science Partnerships targets global life sciences companies. A team from MSP led by Managing Director Tom Renn will be visiting Philadelphia and Boston this week to meet key contacts and prospects following the major announcement in July that a world-leading precision medicine hub will be created in Manchester at its Citylabs campus.

After visiting the global MedTech Conference in Philadelphia, the MSP team will join up with MIDAS, Manchester’s inward investment agency, for a series of meetings and roadshows in Boston aimed at the world's largest healthcare market.

"This summer’s precision medicines announcement was a defining moment for life science investment in our city," Renn said.

Diary dates include the Philadelphia MedTech conference, taking place this week, which coincides with the start on the £60M expansion of MSP's Citylabs complex.

Citylabs’ 220K SF expansion will be delivered under a joint venture partnership between Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and MSP. The development will be delivered by MSP’s majority shareholder, Bruntwood, which has a 10-year Strategic Property Partnership with MFT.