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Manchester 4.0

The technology revolution

Despite no technology in sight, Tom Cox, Business Development Manager, managed to navigate his way round the rural countryside as he adds steps for two great charitable causes.


Wednesday 03 February

Written by Ben Kumar, Senior Investment Strategist

We’re now on the fourth Industrial Revolution1 – although it’s been given a more up to date name; Industry 4.0 (suggesting there are a few bugs to be worked out in later releases?). The original revolution saw machines replace human labour through the early 1800’s, the second revolution revolved around railroads, telegraphs and electrification at the start of the 1900’s, while the third one leveraged the advances in computer power after WWII.

The first Industrial Revolution built Manchester into a global city. In the early nineteenth century, it drew in people from across the country, looking to get involved in manufacturing, chemicals, commerce and finance. As the population expanded, brand new infrastructure sprang up – the world’s first industrial estate, the first intercity train service, or the first real provision of telephones by the General Post Office (which became British Telecom) – it was all happening in Manchester.

The next two revolutions went global. The second wave supercharged the British Empire, and the third revolution built Silicon Valley. But now, the next wave is coming back to where it all began.

This fourth industrial revolution, like the one before, is all about technology. But this time, it’s personal. It’s about how digitalisation will affect all of us, beyond improvements in efficiency of production. It’s working out how our constantly connected lives can shape the future of individuals and the wider world. It’s robots, self-driving cars and neuro-technology. And a lot of it is going to happen in Manchester.

In 2019, Manchester saw about £500 million of venture capital investment – making it the fastest growing tech hub in Europe2. Of course, 2020 has been a challenging year, but we expect the numbers to look similar – after all, the world has relied more on technology in the past twelve months than ever before. Whether it is e-commerce with the likes of The Hut Group and, or the more forward-looking parts of the old media in the BBC and ITV, or the booming Internet of Things sub-sector, there are over 100,000 people building the next revolution in the M postcode.

The story of technology in Manchester is an important reminder that adaptation is always possible – and of how government support, investment and encouragement can produce significant results when done right. As the world recovers from COVID-19, and the UK government looks to stimulate long-term growth, Manchester stands out as an example of how to turn local investment into global success.



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