Creating the World of Tomorrow

Manchester has long enjoyed the kind of pioneering spirit other cities can only dream of. As the former British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli once said: “What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow.” He was speaking at a time when the city was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, but his sentiment still rings true today.

Throughout its history, Manchester has been at the centre of many world-firsts. The first intercity railway station, the first truly man-made canal, and the first stored-program computer were all built in Manchester. John Dalton formulated his atomic theory in the city in 1803, then in 1917 Ernest Rutherford split the atom, discovering the proton and laying the foundations for Radiation Therapy and Particle Therapy.

Nowadays its pioneering spirit is channeled into finding new ways to innovate. It has transformed itself from an industrial city into a modern hub of knowledge, attracting the best academics and industry leaders from across the globe.

Collaborative culture

The city has seen a marked improvement in its positioning as a global conference destination in recent years. According to its convention bureau, the value of international association events almost doubled between 2011 and 2017, rising from £46m to £91m.

The majority of association conferences take place at the city’s two universities – Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Manchester out of term time – or at the city’s flagship convention venue, Manchester Central.

One of the city’s major strengths is how well its various physical and geographical clusters like Corridor Manchester, Manchester Science Partnerships, MediaCityUK, The Sharp Project, and the Northern Quarter collaborate to drive innovation.

This collaborative approach to sharing insight and resources makes it easier for organizers to pull-off large-scale conferences, like the 14th European Sociological Association Conference which attracted around 3,000 sociologists from all over the world to the city this August.

Gary Pollock, professor of sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University, acted as local host for the event. “Not all cities have the capacity to run such a large conference, but Manchester does because of the way all its stakeholders work together. We used the Bridgewater Hall for our large plenary sessions and the Business School at Manchester Metropolitan and University Place at Manchester University for the smaller sessions.  

“Manchester is a compact city, so all of these buildings are relatively close to one another which worked very well. We had what we called a ‘conference campus’ and there were approximately 70 parallel sessions taking place over three days. In previous years the conference has been distributed amongst different parts of the host city which can be a problem, but that wasn’t the case in Manchester.”

Sector strengths

For a small city Manchester holds an impressive hand of sector strengths, from life sciences and advanced manufacturing to creative, digital and tech. It currently leads the world in research into the wonder-substance graphene and is home to global brands like Kellogg’s, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Hitachi, Thales and Siemens.

Europe’s largest clinical academic campus the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, and cancer treatment centre, The Christie, are both based in the city. In June this year, leading clinicians and scientists from the particle therapy community gathered for the 58th annual conference of the Particle Therapy Co-Operative Group (PTCOG). Delegates were able to visit the new Proton Beam Centre at The Christie, which opened in 2018, as part of the conference program.

As well as the treatment of cancer, Manchester is considered a specialist in precision medicine, orthopedics, and research into anti-microbial resistance and genomic biomarkers. It has more than 20 international conferences confirmed for the next few years specifically in the life sciences, medical and healthcare sectors including the European Resuscitation Council Congress in 2020 and the 14th annual congress of the European Association for Haemophilia and Allied Disorders in 2021.

Constant improvement

You only have to look at the skyline to see Manchester’s transformation is still very much a work in progress. New buildings are springing up everywhere and investment is being poured into the city’s venues and transport infrastructure.

What was once derelict dockland on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal is now MediaCityUK – a thriving hub of creative, digital, tech and media businesses including the BBC and ITV. This sector is growing faster in Manchester than anywhere else in the UK, partly thanks to the £3.5bn of investment has been made by both the public and private sector in the past few years.

True to Manchester’s forward-thinking spirit, the convention bureau has set itself the ambitious target of boosting the value of business tourism by 40% over the next five years, taking the total value of business tourism up to £1.2 bn.

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This article was written by Boardroom editor Chantelle Dietz. The right to use it, in parts or fully, has to be granted by the Publisher.

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