When GCHQ arrived in Manchester at the backend of 2019, the city’s growing tech influence wasn’t much of a secret.
By then, nearby Salford Quays had already welcomed the BBC – igniting a media ecosystem around it – and Google in the city centre. It had produced its own fair share of tech companies: The Hut Group, Booking.com and Autotrader are some of its alumni.
A year later, Amazon opened a development centre in the city, while PwC announced a new Manchester tech hub to aid the demand for AI, digitisation and data analytics.
Today, with a £5bn digital tech ecosystem and home to over 10,000 tech companies, Manchester has been reported as the most digitally inclusive city in the UK.
Last year, its tech start-ups raised a record £532m and it has seen steady venture capital investment since 2018.
As the list below demonstrates, Manchester has its fair share of high-growth healthtechs, and has solidified itself as one of the main medtech hubs outside London alongside Cambridge, Oxford and Leeds. However, the biggest sector in the city is SaaS, with 12.5 per cent of Manchester’s high-growth start-ups specialising in the space.
The city’s tech scene is far-ranging, however. “Manchester’s got heathtech, SaaS, e-commerce, payments, cyber… it’s a really diverse tech economy,” Katie Gallagher, managing director of digital tech trade body Manchester Digital tells Growth Business.
“The size and scale of the tech industry here just means we have that proliferation of companies coming through and given that we are outside London and Cambridge but attracting investment shows there’s a lot here.
“From a talent perspective we’ve got huge talent around mobile UX, data science and AI. From such a strong and mature talent pool, those people are going on to create businesses and do things – that’s why we seem to have an above average level of investment.”
The city benefits from Northern Gritstone – which helps commercialise spinouts – as well as facilities such as the Citylabs campus which is providing crucial lab space for the city’s healthtech, medtech and life sciences companies.
In March, the government also selected Manchester – alongside Glasgow and the West Midlands – to pilot its Innovation Accelerators programme: a £100m investment into 26 high-growth projects.
“We want that critical mass so that we can say to the big players come and have a look – there’s a whole showcase of really investable businesses here,” Gallagher says. “I do think some of the narrative is changing.”
Most exciting tech companies in Manchester
This list collates the best in the city based on equity raised, turnover growth year-on-year and impact in their respective fields.
#1 – Evergreen Life
The start-up has developed a free app containing a user’s health records and DNA genetic reports, from which you can book GP appointments and order NHS prescriptions. The app also provides tailored health and wellbeing advice via questionnaires and gives an overall wellness score.
As well as individuals, the platform can be used by healthcare professionals for remote monitoring of a patient’s heath.
#2 – Orka
Sector: HR tech
Orka reached an investment total of £30.9m in 2022, from backers including the Future Fund and Manchester-based VC firm Praetura Ventures.
The start-up’s solution allows shift workers to see temporary roles within traditional industries. Workers can find shifts, manage schedules and find out when they’ll get paid. Workers can also access 50 per cent of their wages as soon as they’ve earnt them.
#3 – Zilico
Based in Manchester’s science park, Zilico works with the early detection of cervical cancer. A spinout from the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the start-up has received £25.1m of investment since its foundation in 2006.
In 2021, its main product – which detects abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix – was being used across 10 hospitals across the UK and is now working towards oral cancer diagnostics.
#4 – Sourceful
Sourceful is a platform for brands to design, produce, source and manage sustainable packaging. Companies can see live data on their carbon footprint, as well as price and delivery information.
To date, it has raised £17.2m in equity from the likes of Index Ventures and EKA Ventures.
#5 – Cytox
A spinout from the University of Birmingham and headquartered in Manchester, Cytox develops early diagnostic tests and risk assessments for Alzheimer’s and dementia, raising £12.9m to date.
The tests require just a blood or saliva sample, from which it assesses an individual’s genetic risk to Alzheimer’s, dementia or further decline. The tests can also be used to identify which individuals are best suited to investigational Alzheimer’s drug trials.
#6 – Proveca
Proveca develops medicine for children – specifically epilepsy and heart failure medication and treatments for those with a neurodisability such as cerebral palsy, to improve quality of life. Its founders Dr Helen Shaw and Dr Simon Bryson found many medicines subscribed to children are not specifically licenced for paediatric use.
The company has raised £11.2m from investors since its launch in 2010 and made the list of 100 fastest growing businesses in 2019.
#7 – Powerlinks
Adtech Powerlinks delivers personalised, contextually relevant ads and remarketing campaigns, with its network reaching over a billion consumers through over 400,000 websites.
The Manchester-based adtech – which has raised £10.9m in equity financing to date – allows companies to use existing content to assemble relevant adverts on websites hosting similar content.
#8 – Evergreen Energy
Salford-based cleantech Evergreen Energy was one of Britain’s fastest growing businesses in 2017 and has reached almost £10m of investment to date.
Building its own wind farms, it offers renewable energy but also consults businesses on renewable design and installations – such as the installation of heat pumps, solar panels, battery storage and EV chargers.
#9 – Prevayl
Prevayl has developed wearables which uses bio data such as heart rate variability, heart rate zones and recovery data to provide athletic performance insights. Its products include sensors and connected sportswear.
In total, the four-year-old company has raised £7.5m in equity funding.
#10 – Peak
AI company Peak has raised £85.4m in equity funding with SoftBank leading a Series C round – more than any other Manchester-based AI firm.
Peak leverages AI to help businesses optimise their pricing, personalisation and product inventory – boasting the likes of Nike and Pepsico to its client list. Its platform also contains apps and tools to assist in business decision making.
#11 – Matillion
Matillion received unicorn status in 2021 with a £109m funding round and describes itself as the productivity platform for data teams.
In total, the Manchester-based company has raised £226m in equity investment according to Beauhurst and counts Sony, Cisco and Slack among its clientele.
#12 – Arctic Shores
Sector: Recruitment tech
Arctic Shores helps businesses hire efficiently by assessing candidates using 12,000 data points. It says because today candidates can use tools such as ChatGPT to write a cover letter for them – deeming the process ineffective – it has developed a task-based personality assessment which tests for insights such as emotional intelligence.
It has worked with Siemens to expand their talent pool, encourage more women to apply and reduce the time and cost to hire. The company has raised £11.4m in funding so far.
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