A delegation of tech experts from businesses across the north are set for Silicon Valley aboard Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural Manchester to San Francisco flight.
More than 30 tech leaders are set to bang the Northern Powerhouse drum as they form a trade mission to celebrate the launch of the first direct flight from Manchester to San Francisco.
Entrepreneurs, universities and business bodies say the service, with Virgin Atlantic, will deliver a major boost to the industry across the North, giving them access to funding and know-how from the home of tech giants like Facebook, Uber, Eventbrite and Apple.
Trade Minister Greg Hands hailed the three-times weekly route as “a boost for the Northern Powerhouse’s ambitious tech and digital companies as they take advantage of new markets and trading opportunities”
It is the first ever direct service from the North to San Francisco and the only route outside of London in the UK.
A 30-strong delegation of leading figures from the tech sector across the North will board the first flight from Manchester, on March 28, as part of the mission.
It has been coordinated by MC2, a Northern Powerhouse partner with offices in Manchester and San Francisco, in partnership with Manchester Airport and Virgin Atlantic, and supported by the Department for International Trade and the Institute of Directors.
The group is being led by two serial technology investors and entrepreneurs, Scott Fletcher, founder of cloud services provider ANS Group, Manchester and Dr Adam Beaumont, founder of telecoms platform business aql, Leeds.
The delegation includes a mix of Northern corporates such as Sage, of Newcastle, CoOp Digital, of Manchester, as well as a host of early and mid-stage tech firms like Hull-based VISR-VR, Vibe Tickets and one iota, from Lancashire, and Manchester-based Wakelet. It is also being supported by the University of Central Lancashire and Manchester Metropolitan University.
Mike Perls, Chair of IOD North West and CEO at MC2 said:
“We’ve turned a typical trade mission on its head. This has been created by the private sector, for the private sector – with government backing. We’ve set our own objectives and will deliver genuine outcomes.
“For the Northern Powerhouse initiative to succeed we need a coherent vision, and that involves individual sectors coming together for genuine collaboration around shared goals. This trade mission kicks starts the technology cluster group and the bonds we’ll create between delegates – and the learnings we’ll bring back – will stand the whole sector in great stead for the future.”
Silicon Valley is the world’s leading hub for the tech sector, with an estimated 25% of all start-up funding still originating in the San Francisco area.
The North of England currently has 283,000 tech sector jobs, worth £10bn. It is hoped the direct service will drive large-scale growth by linking businesses across the patch with funding and talent from Northern California.
The delegates are set to have a high profile itinerary, meeting some of the West Coast’s top tech giants while on the mission. They will also get the opportunity to meet leading US universities and funders, pitching investment and collaboration opportunities in the North.
International Trade Minister Greg Hands said:
“The Northern Powerhouse, like Silicon Valley, is a leading centre of creativity and innovation. A direct link between the home of the industrial revolution, and the home of the digital revolution, will be a boost for both regions, and for the Northern Powerhouse’s ambitious tech and digital companies as they take advantage of new markets and trading opportunities across the world.”
Richard Gregory, Director of Tech North:
“Creating better links between the established tech scene of the West Coast, with the burgeoning ecosystem in the North of England, is a triple win, providing market access, additional funding options, and access to more tech talent.”
The new flights will also be a boost to the Northern firms that already have links to Silicon Valley. Shaving hours off the journey, the direct services will take approximately 11 hours from Manchester.
Currently 97,735 people from Manchester Airport’s catchment fly to San Francisco every year but have to travel indirectly via London or other overseas hubs.
Ken O’Toole, CEO of Manchester Airport, said:
“We know Northern tech leaders have long lobbied for a direct service to San Francisco, the world’s leading location for the sector.
“That is why we are pleased to be launching this route, which will stimulate the vital flow of knowledge and finance between both locations, creating jobs and wealth in the process.
“It is the perfect illustration of the role direct international connectivity plays in driving growth in high value sectors and will make a key contribution to realising the Government’s Northern Powerhouse vision.
“The trade mission demonstrates that public and private sector partners are committed to working together to ensure the North competes on the global stage and I wish them well on the trip.”
Craig Kreeger, Virgin Atlantic CEO:
“Manchester is the San Francisco of Britain. Digital, entrepreneurial, creative, cosmopolitan and dynamic: it’s got every ingredient to be a world class 21st century city. Our job is to connect like-minded customers, as well as businesses, together and this new route does just that.”
Full list of delegates include:
Scott Fletcher, ANS Group; Dr Adam Beaumont, aql; Jamil Khali, Wakelet; Mike Perls, IoD; Claire Tennant, MC2;
Damian Hanson, CircleLoop; David Hague, one iota; Tim Steele, UCLan; Gavin Wheeldon, Purple WiFi; Ravi Ghedia, GP Bullhound; Kerry Wright, Purple WiFi; Oliver Nicoll, VISR-VR; Mylo Kaye, Dreamr; Jon Corner, The Landing; Tim Newns, MIDAS; Ed Cox, Impact Ltd; Matt Haworth, Reason Digital; Luke Massie, Vibe; Prof Richard Greene, MMU; Claire Braithwaite, Co-op Group; Adam Jupp, Manchester Airports Group; Karl Susol, Department for International Trade and Nigel Jones, Department for International Trade.
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