Posted by Lisa Ashurst

Posted 5 July, 2013 OBI BLOG

SHPL1204On 27 June, OBI Property sponsored Place Northwest’s Place Tech 3 event held at the amazing Sharp Project.

It was a thoroughly interesting afternoon where such topics as – is Manchester really living it up to its potential to become one the world’s leading digital cities? What makes Manchester better than other locations for digital and creative businesses? And how can the property industry adapt and support this fast moving sector?

Rose Marley, managing director of Sharp Futures and part of the management team at the Sharp Project made some terrific points about the small, young businesses wanting to collaborate and learn from each other and Sharp Project helps make that happen with a culture that means if you need advice you can just knock on your neighbours or the management teams door and get it.  Her point was backed up by Henry James founder of product designers inventid who set up at the Sharp Project – they chose Manchester because of its openness and willingness in the sector to support one another.SHPL1229

As to whether Manchester is fulfilling its potential, Farooq Ansari’s, business development director and digital consultant at the Reading Room described the City as a perfect storm of opportunity, community and technology, citing the excellence of the higher education and also a good supply of interesting and affordable space for businesses to set up.  Rose was a little more cautious, for her Manchester will only fulfil its true potential by making sure young people are taught essential skills and have their eyes opened to see the wide opportunities in the creative and digital sectors.

OBI Property’s Will Lewis presented the view of the property sector.  Will talked about the disconnect between what TMT occupiers want – flexibilty in terms of space and leases commitments  and interesting and exciting spaces to operate in, which goes against the traditional landlord expectations of seeking long term leases and standard office refurbishments.

OBI has managed to bridge the gap between expectations in this sector, especially with its work on Tower 12, IMG_9541Spinningfields by providing tenants with a workspase free from suspended ceilings and blue carpets. This provided occupiers to create their own identity and provided maximum flexibility in terms of their fit out.  As Will said, taking a more flexible and creative approach to supplying office space doesn’t have to cost the landlord more and is often more economical compared with the conventional standardised office refurbishement. OBI are working on some exciting projects in this particular sector with the emergence of Hello Studios and i plus at Spinningfields and the £6M refurbishment scheme of Sevendale House in the Northern Quarter.

Doug Ward who is co-founder of Tech Hub Manchester introduced the concept which exists to help young tech based companies be able to do what they do and get support on other business matters law, accountancy and marketing by mentors.  Places like Tech Hub and Sharp Project offer far more than just space for businesses to work from, it’s a support network and it would be fantastic to see more landlords offering complementary services to help young businesses grow.

The overriding message from all the speakers was that it’s not just physical space and fast connectivity that digital and creative businesses need from their work space but the opportunity to connect with each other and collaborate.  Also that the whole city needs to work together, especially when it comes to giving opportunities to young people in the sector to make sure Manchester not only meets its target of being a world leading digital city but maintains it in the long term.