Prof. Brian Cox: Knowledge Economy Central to Success

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The TMRW Conference made its successful debut this year as part of the IP EXPO Manchester (Europe’s leading IT infrastructure and Cloud event) and brought together over 50 speakers, including Manchester’s own renowned astrophysicist, Professor Brian Cox.

Global concerns, regional focus
TMRW was the brainchild of Tom Cheesewright, who sees himself as a ‘bridge between technology makers and technology consumers’. He had a clear Manchester focus in mind;

“The objective was to create an event that brought together Manchester’s disparate tech tribes under one roof. The start-ups, the agencies, and the more traditional providers and consumers of technology – businesses, small and large. I believe there is great potential for Manchester to be a world-class tech city, an objective shared by many around the region who have made great strides in this direction. But I don’t think we can get there unless we can bring some coherence to the very organic nature of existing growth.”

Exploring innovation
James Bruton, Samy Kamkar and Ulysses Sengupta were among the speakers sparking lively debates on a huge range of subjects including 3D printing, smart cities and who controls social media. For many, however, the highlight of the event was the session from Professor Brian Cox.

Professor Cox talked about his involvement with the Large Hadron Collider, the importance of astronomy, and what the future of science holds. Having heard from other speakers throughout the day on the importance of innovation in Manchester, this was an excellent opportunity to speak Brian Cox about his perspective on the city.

Championing Manchester
It is not hard to see that Cox is incredibly proud of the city that he was born and raised in, and he was quick to point out that “we have more Nobel Prize winners in Manchester than anywhere else in the country”. He spoke about how Manchester is one of the country’s leading centres for astrophysics and associated subjects – ensuring that some of the UK’s most gifted and promising students are attracted to the university and the city.

“MMU, and the University in Manchester – we have these enormous world-leading institutions. They’re centres of excellence – the intellectual life in these places is as rich as anywhere else in the world and I think that they don’t play as powerful a role as they could. For example, you could say that the connections to schools can be looked at. We build bridges with schools across the North West and beyond, but why not strengthen that? Why not have government help focus on that? We’re all trying to go in the same direction – we are all trying to build a knowledge economy. I spoke to some politicians before the election from both parties about it, and there seemed to be a consensus that we can do better.”

Professor Cox was also keen to highlight the looming skills gap in science, claiming that the country needs a million more engineers in the economy by 2020, something that could be helped through targeted government funding.

Well placed for the future
Nonetheless, higher education in Manchester is well equipped for turning out graduates in many emerging fields and the TMRW Conference is just one initiative that underlines the importance of facilities and events to support innovation in the region. Tom Cheesewright is already making plans for next year’s TMRW which he hopes will really become an established force for pushing boundaries.

Help us to understand innovation in Manchester
Digital Innovation has joined force with Rare: to carry out a UK-wide survey to understand innovation across the country. Tell us about your experience of innovation in the North West. The results will be published in August.

Article and photo by Alexandra Rivers
Alexandra is currently undertaking a Masters in Journalism at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her CV and photographic portfolio are available online.