Why Manchester is the new tech capital

GrantTree blog | Culture | Manchester

We talk a lot about our London branch in this blog but it’s not our only office. We recently set up shop in Manchester with an eye to helping the ever growing number of exciting and innovative businesses based in the North of England. We chose a good time to head north as Manchester is the place to be for startups at the moment, especially for tech. The most recent Tech Nation Report showed that nearly 70% of tech investment in 2016 took place outside of London, and £78 million of this was invested in Manchester. The city is now the UK’s second largest tech cluster, with over 50,000 employees. This is encouraging news for a sector that can often seem woefully London-centric.


An affordable place to do business


Startups are flocking to Manchester. Last year, the Manchester Evening News reported that an average of 180 new businesses were being formed in the Greater Manchester area every week. It’s easy to see why. Property prices in London have reached such astronomical levels that many businesses find it impossible to secure premises in the capital. Estimates vary as to the price differences between the two cities but the gap is definitely sizeable. Expatistan currently puts house prices in Manchester 32% cheaper than in London, and has overall cost of living 37% cheaper. This not only means that new companies can afford to set up shop in the city, it also means that staff can afford to live nearby instead of commuting.

This cheaper cost of living, coupled with lucrative funding opportunities such as the Northern Powerhouse scheme, has made Manchester a strong contender for the UK’s next tech capital. This effect is cumulative. As more tech businesses move to Manchester, an ecosystem grows making it easier for such businesses to flourish. More and more useful connections are made between companies in the region and the area becomes more and more conducive to successful business.

GrantTree is proud to be part of this. Our London branch helps businesses to secure funding which can prove crucial in their development, but these businesses exist within a long-established infrastructure. In Manchester, we feel that we can play a more instrumental role in forming a new ecosystem and establishing a thriving tech community in the area.

We spoke to Nancy Scotford, head of our Northern office, about why the future is bright for both Manchester and GrantTree.


Getting in on the ground floor


One of the biggest elements of our Manchester operation is the nurturing of new clients. Nancy describes the approach as ‘paying it forward’, that is, helping new businesses to get off the ground in the hope that they will become clients in the future.

‘Manchester is a new market and a lot of our work goes into developing future leads as well as current clients. We work closely with Manchester startups. Some of these are the founders of the so called ‘Northern Tech Ecosystem’ and others are up and comers that have followed in their footsteps.’


Areas of growth


We asked Nancy about the types of businesses that are thriving in the Manchester tech sector at the moment:

‘Healthtech is a big area at the moment and we’re working with several digital health companies who provide online consultations. This is by no means the only area we’re focused on though. There’s a lot happening with supply chain tracking software and blockchain. There’s a really nice group of companies coming out of the Universities and the Manchester Science Park facilities. It’s a very varied digital scene.’


Common mistakes and how we can help


One of our main jobs is to look over a company’s R&D Tax Credit application to make sure it stands the best possible chance of success. Here Nancy describes the most common mistakes she sees on applications:

‘A big one is technical narrative: a large R&D spend accompanied by no technical narrative or a very brief technical narrative. Another mistake we see a lot is failing to provide enough supporting evidence. A claim is made up of two sides- technical explanations and tax computations. With GrantTree you get both in one place. We know the legislation like the back of our hand because we spend 100% of our time on that. We know the limits of how to push things to get maximum money for the client.’


A bright future


The tech industry is clearly booming in Manchester and we like to think that we’re playing a small but important role in this. Nancy is optimistic about the future:

‘I think Manchester will continue to grow. We’re seeing companies like Twine and Peak raising huge sums of money which is very encouraging. More and more individuals are moving out of London to Manchester to start businesses. Undergrads are moving here from London and seeking jobs. I see GrantTree’s role as continuing to support this growth and helping to build a strong investment ecosystem in the North of England.


Are you a tech innovator?


If you run an innovative tech company based in the North, or anywhere else for that matter, you might be entitled to R&D Tax Credits. Innovation can be risky, especially if you run a small business with tight profit margins. R&D Tax Credits help to take the risk out of risk taking by allowing you to claim money back against your annual R&D spend. The application process can seem a bit daunting. You’ll have to present a strong case backed up with detailed evidence. This can seem like a lot of hassle, but we’re here to make thing easier. We can guide you through the whole process to make sure your application stands the best possible chance of success. We can even advance you 50% of the value of your claim within 48 hours.

Get in touch today and let’s get to work.

If you are curious about R&D Tax Credits, Innovation Grants and Open Culture