Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

One year in, Mi-IDEA and Manchester’s future is looking brighter than ever

September 21, 2018

Cliché or not, it’s still hard to believe that only 12 months have gone by since Mi-IDEA first opened for business in Manchester.

When the ribbon was cut on our northern innovation centre, we had plans to see it become a place that start-ups in the region could call home. Mi-IDEA has achieved that – we’ve onboarded 14 bright young companies in the past year – but it’s also grown to be much more than just a roof over these start-ups’ heads.

The centre has become a hub at the heart of Manchester’s buzzing innovation ecosystem. A true hive of innovation. Manchester is viewed by the government as a vital location for the success of the UK’s digital strategy. The strategy incorporates a number of aims, including making the UK the best place to start and grow a digital business and unlocking the power of data in the UK economy.

‘Moving from the corporate world to entrepreneurship can be isolating and scary. Having this amazing infrastructure and support gives you the confidence to grow and succeed’ 

Julie McGann, Unicorn and Co

Over the year, our innovation centre and its residents have contributed to the creation of 34 new jobs, and the space has also played host to 100 events – welcoming visitors from throughout the city and further afield. We’ve put on everything from smart city conferences to new tech demonstrations, hackathons, and, earlier in the year, hosted a brilliant Tech Talent Charter event to help promote and support greater diversity within our industry.

We’ve also conducted more than 70 customer visits, connecting businesses looking for smart solutions with bright new minds and ideas.

As well as providing a headquarters for CityVerve, Manchester’s IoT smart city demonstrator project, Mi-IDEA also played host to an open innovation programme run as part of the project – providing workspace and support for eight start-ups developing new smart city solutions. These start-ups were given unique access to reams of secure city data and used that access to develop ideas that ranged from data-optimised bus routing to internet-connected cycle lights, mobile air quality sensors and more.

For many of these entrepreneurs, this was the first opportunity they had had to work with large corporate and academic organisations like Cisco, BT, TfGM, the University of Manchester, and Manchester Science Partnerships. I feel that this, perhaps more than anything, reflects the powerful role that Mi-IDEA has played in bringing innovators together.

‘What really stood out for me was the passion for Manchester and collaborative working being at the heart of what you do’ 

Zoya Stott, Senior Programme Director, Common Purpose UK

The open innovation approach employed by CityVerve has also informed our brand new programme: The Cisco Challenges – an open, agile, and inclusive approach to tackling some of the biggest issues faced by the world of tomorrow.

But it’s not just people working in technology that have been drawn to Mi-IDEA. We’ve had government ministers, mayors, public figures, and international delegations passing through our doors and keen to learn more about how the trailblazing role we’re playing in the city’s blossoming innovation offering.

Just like these leaders and legislators, our eyes are trained keenly on the future, and the potential locked within Mi-IDEA and its residents.

For us, this manifests in a commitment to educating and inspiring the next generation of innovators – arguably one of our most valuable resources.

We’ve had more than 500 young people coming to learn about emerging technologies and the impact they’ll have on all of our futures. February’s ‘Pathway To Your Future’ event was a particular highlight, as 30 young women from Manchester came together to come up with smart solutions for some of the city’s biggest challenges.

And when these young people leave brimming with inspiration, we’re ready to welcome them back for more practical experiences – more than 10 young people have served valuable internships in the centre over the past year.

But, as they say, this is just the beginning: our city continues to attract attention and investment, and its close-knit tech community is increasingly the envy of others.

We’re used to leading the way. Here’s to many more years of doing just that.

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