Greater Manchester’s SME community “has shown an unwavering ability to seek opportunity, innovate and thrive in the hardest of times” a new report has revealed.
This is just one of the findings in GC Business Growth Hub’s first ever annual review, ‘The Greater Manchester Business Growth Report’, published today (12 February).
The 53-page document provides vital insight into how the region’s businesses have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as understanding opportunities and challenges in the year ahead.
Figures quoted in the report, from the Greater Manchester Business Survey 2020, show that the city-region was spearheading innovation at a rate double the national average.
A total of 406 companies, 76 per cent of those surveyed, had conducted innovation projects. Whereas, The UK Innovation Survey 2019 published last July, found that compared to only 38 per cent of SMEs nationally.
To continue to increase profit margins and unlock growth, the report also stresses the importance of considering economic, environmental and social factors when companies make procurement decisions.
Alongside digital innovation, Greater Manchester businesses have prioritised eco-friendly and sustainable initiatives.
The region’s low carbon sector generates £6.8bn in sales and eco-innovation is expected to accelerate further.
In 2021, the Hub also expects to see a greater number of firms introduce wellbeing and mental health initiatives as flexible working practices continue to grow.
GC Business Growth Hub is part of The Growth Company and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
Janine Smith, Head of Specialist Services at GC Business Growth Hub, said that Greater Manchester’s business community’s entrepreneurial spirit to “build back better” will help to see the region recover and rebuild in 2021.
“Crises drive innovation and COVID-19 has been a crisis unlike any other,” Janine said.
“Our entrepreneurs have identified opportunities, shown great spirit and adapted. This is a positive sign for our region and it shows what we all know – in these challenging times our city-region is still looking for ways to break new ground. Creativity, resilience and the spirit of innovation is in Greater Manchester’s DNA.
“The business community has shown an unwavering ability to build back better, seek opportunities and innovate in the hardest of times. Our region has shown resilience, but companies need help to make changes and grow.
“Of course, our region has been hard-hit by ongoing restrictions and the last 12 months have taken a toll on many, particularly our hospitality and retail sector.
“Our advisors have been inundated with requests for support and my message to our business community is that we are here for you, we are here for business.”
The region’s businesses have also been supported by Greater Manchester Combined Authority via a £10m Bounce Back loans fund, and the government’s furlough scheme.
A total of 43,000 Greater Manchester businesses also accessed funding to help them through the pandemic through government-backed loan schemes up to August last year.
Lou Cordwell, Chair of Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (GM LEP), said: “The past year has been an incredibly challenging one for Greater Manchester’s businesses – particularly our SMEs – but this report offers reason for hope.
“It has been inspiring to see businesses adapt and innovate in all sorts of ways across our city-region. Greater Manchester is known for its resilience and creativity, and those traits will have been evident this difficult period and will be the basis of our recovery.
“Creating a culture of business innovation, across all sectors and in all parts of Greater Manchester, is a central part of our Economic Vision. In particular, businesses that have embraced digital and low-carbon innovation will help drive our national economic recovery and efforts to build back better.
“The Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership will continue to support and champion our businesses as they adapt to the massive changes brought on by the pandemic.”
Businesses looking to access specialist support can visit www.businessgrowthhub.com for more information about the organisation’s extensive range of services. This and other GC Business Growth Hub projects are part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the GM Business Growth Hub project designed to help ambitious SME businesses achieve growth and increase employment in Greater Manchester. The Hub is also supported by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Greater Manchester local authorities.
 The 2020 Greater Manchester Business Survey took place between January and March 2020. A total of 534 interviews were completed with businesses across Greater Manchester.