Posted: 30 Apr. 2021 3 min. read

Innovation ecosystem huge attraction for Japanese investors - MIDAS

In the first of a series of interviews on the relationship between Japan and Manchester, Deloitte partner Jo Ahmed speaks to David Hilton, Head of Business Development at MIDAS, Manchester’s inward investment agency, on the investment opportunities that Manchester presents, and the synergies between the two locations.

Last week, MIDAS partnered with GC Business Growth Hub’s Global Scale Up programme on a spotlight exhibition at the Manchester Digital City Festival, looking at the collaboration opportunities between the city and Osaka in Japan.

Hosted across five days in multiple venues across the city, the Manchester Digital City Festival provides a platform for network growth, innovation, collaboration and personal development. The event also represents another strong platform for the city to strengthen relationships with overseas markets including Japan, and highlight the continuing successful collaborations.

Jo: What common ground do Japanese businesses, and particularly, those in the Kansai region, have with Manchester?

David: I think Japanese businesses in general prioritise the building of long-term collaborative relationships, rather than focusing on one-and-done projects. They see the value of developing deep roots in the locations that they invest, integrating into the local culture and driving the maximum value for both sides.

When it comes to the Kansai region, and particularly Osaka, Manchester’s council and Department for International Trade have long-established trading relationships, and we see considerable opportunity to support business growth and accelerate inward investment plans by strengthening this.

Jo: Are there any ‘hot sectors’ that we expect to see appetite for investment from Japanese firms?

David: There are a number of sector synergies between Manchester and Japan, driven largely by social and economic similarities. Our commitment to achieving zero carbon by 2038 is not only perfectly mirrored by Japan’s historical strength in the low carbon sector, but will require significant innovation and collaboration with other countries to achieve.

Likewise, there are clear overlaps between the life sciences, advanced manufacturing and digital sectors, where greater collaboration and investment can benefit both sides.

Jo: What trends have we seen when it comes to collaborations?

David: Outside of the sector opportunities mentioned above, we’ve seen interest from Japanese businesses in more infrastructure-focused businesses. For example, in 2019, the Kansai Electric Power Company was part of a consortium that took a 50 per cent share in Electricity North West. Likewise, in the same year, Sekisui House, Japan’s biggest housebuilder, took a 35 per cent equity stake in ‘House’ the modular arm of Urban Splash to deliver thousands of new homes across England.

Jo: What specific opportunities does Manchester present when it comes to digital?

David: As a hub of innovation, Manchester is a magnet when it comes to forward thinking businesses, and there are few industries more forward thinking than tech and digital! In recent years, the city has become the undisputed second city when it comes to technology and digital growth, presenting a real opportunity for overseas investors to support this expansion.

Bolstered by an innovation ecosystem, world class universities and international connectivity, Manchester represents the ideal location for tech companies to access the skills, ideas and infrastructure to grow their global operations.

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Key contact

Jo Ahmed

Jo Ahmed


Jo is a Partner and has over 19 years’ experience in dealing with all issues in respect of international mobility. Her clients range from small entrepreneurial businesses engaging in overseas expansion to large multinationals with extensive international mobility programmes. Jo is a regular speaker on international markets and is a member of the Association of Taxation Technicians and the Chartered Institute of Taxation.