The Thriving Tech Sector in the North West

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The North West's digital sector is thriving and is a crucial cog in the engine for the UK’s economic recovery. As a result of increased investment, a pool of fantastic talent and an ambundance of ambition across the region, the North West is home to many of the UK's fastest growing tech companies. We take a closer look at the flourishing sector and some of the trailblazing businesses that are at the forefront of this growth.

Published: Apr 18, 2023
Focus: Insights

The North West’s tech sector has seen record levels of investment in recent years. This increased investment has enabled the region to be home to a thriving and rapidly expanding tech ecosystem and help cement its position as one of the UK's key tech hubs, and cities like Manchester outperform many major European capitals. 

With a talented pool of university graduates to tap into, the city has built a strong tech-focused workforce, employing more than 60,000 people in over 1,600 businesses. A recent study published by Dealroom, a global data provider of intelligence information on startups and tech ecosystems, discovered that new tech companies located in Manchester raised a record £532 million in 2022, the highest level of funding in the UK, outside of London, indicating a 50% increase from the previous year’s funding. 

Access to investment remains a critical barrier to address, but funds such the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) are helping plug that gap and have been designed to specifically help ambitious, growth-focused SMEs, whilst boosting the regional economy and creating new job opportunities.

For over five years Maven has managed the equity element of NPIF, helping companies across the region access the capital and support they need to flourish.

Examples of tech businesses supported by NPIF Maven Equity Finance include Healum, a business with a ground-breaking AI based patient management system designed to improve health outcomes and quality of life for people with long term conditions. Greater Manchester based Healum offers a remote service for patients to manage their health more effectively, and through integrating with AI their technology can assist healthcare professionals, rather than replacing them. Maven’s investment is being utilised to help grow Healum’s already existing, talented workforce to further innovate their advanced technology, which will ultimately help patients live a better life. 

Airtime Rewards is another impressive tech business who are delivering strong results. The company combines powerful AI and machine learning with real-time purchase data to better understand and influence consumer’s shopping behaviours. Working with the major mobile networks and leading high-street retailers across the UK, Airtime Rewards combines this data to produce a unique reward currency that customers can convert to get money off their phone bill, delivering a shared benefit for all parties involved within the consumer chain. 

MicroBiosensor, a medical device company who are addressing a range of unmet market needs for faster infection diagnosis, was first backed by NPIF Maven Equity Finance in 2018. The company’s technology platform provides point of care infection diagnosis through a simple colour change in a hand-held device. This unique feature enables patients and physicians to be alerted to escalating infections, allowing more timely and effective targeting of appropriate intervention. 

Outside of Manchester, other key areas and cities of the North West who are contributing  to the region’s success include Liverpool, Leeds, Cheshire and Lancashire. Findings from the Tech Nation People and Skills Report, a growth platform for tech companies and leaders, found that in 2022 Liverpool was ranked 12th in the UK for tech positions by city. Liverpool has established itself as a leader in medical, health and pharmaceutical technology, alongside others areas including: retail, education, and digital media. Maven backed Margin Guardian, an information services company based in Liverpool, delivers unique retail and pricing insights to assist fashion retailers in their targeting and trend analysis. Funding from Maven Equity Finance in November 2021 is helping the company launch the Android version of its “Squished Shopping App,” a fashion browsing app that brings together items from popular retailers. 

Another Maven backed North West tech firm, located in Oldham, is leading accelerated research intelligence for drug discovery services, Biorelate. In 2020, Biorelate launched its new AI platform ‘Galatic AI™’ a cloud-based supercomputing platform to auto-curate crucial biomedical data from any article, a vital piece of technology to understand biomedical research. The business combines natural language processing and AI with human expert to curate billions of biomedical data points to form a complete map of available scientific research which aids scientific drug discovery, helping solve difficult biomedical challenges. Funding through Maven will enable Biorelate to increase its commercial and technical capacity, with further expansion into the US market.

Moving eastwards, the technology scene in Leeds is also thriving. Leeds has gained a reputation for developing the skilled staff needed to drive innovation and in a recent rankings list compiled by global real estate advisor CBRE showed Leeds had moved up from tenth to 6th as a major destination for the technology industry. Maven backed and Leeds-based XR Games is an award-winning games development studio who specialise in immersive augmented (“AR”) and virtual (“VR”) reality. Successes for the business include the video game Zombieland: Headshot Fever, a popular release on Sony PlayStation.

Ten Maven-backed businesses were also recently named in the Top 100 fatest growing technology companies across the North of England and Scotland. North West based ApplearniAM Compliant, MirrorWeb, Orka Technology Group and ProofID all made the list for 2023 which recognises the businesses with the highest revenue growth over the last three years.

The availability of growth capital through funds such as the Maven VCTs and NPIF Maven Equity Finance provides the perfect breeding ground for dynamic and innovative tech-led businesses to access the capital they require to thrive and rapidly expand. In fact, Maven has now completed 56 equity investments totalling £80 million into North West tech companies in recent years. Coupled with the region’s extensive infrastructure and talent pipeline, the North West is proving that it has the qualities to compete with the other centres of European tech excellence.

“Maven has played an important role in supporting the growth and success of tech-focused businesses across the North West of England. Through funds such a NPIF Maven Equity Finance, we have backed a diverse range of businesses in sectors such as Fashion Retail, FinTech, Healthcare, and Recruitment, among others. At Maven we are proud of our track record in this space and remain committed to helping ambitious tech companies across the region push the boundaries and drive progress in their respective fields.” 

Simon Robb, Portfolio Manager at Maven

“The North West provides a vibrant and energetic ecosystem for the UK tech sector, offering a blend of talent and capital which makes it an ideal location for businesses to grow and compete in the global marketplace. The region's history of entrepreneurship and innovation is helping it forge new paths and its embrace of new technologies is helping it remain competitive in today’s fast-moving digital economy.” 

Karen de Meza, Portfolio Director at Maven

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