The economic impact of the Manchester Beijing route
Manchester China Forum commissioned Steer Economic Development to explore the broad economic impacts of direct connectivity between Manchester and China, following the first anniversary of a new route between Manchester and Beijing - the first direct flight to mainland China from the UK outside of London.
The study took a developmental approach to exploring ‘hard-to-measure’ impact dimensions such as creativity and innovation, constructing a Theory of Change model to describe both short term benefits that could be immediately observed and anticipate medium-to-long term impacts.
The impacts of connectivity were explored across the following domains:
- Manchester Airport and its supply chains.
- Manchester’s Business Base and improvements to jobs, aggregate GVA and productivity that closer working with Chinese firms and the Chinese market are bringing.
- Manchester’s Knowledge Base and the uplifts in particular to Higher and Further Education as a result of direct connectivity with Beijing.
- Skills and Culture and the likely longer term effects in the ways that Manchester and the wider North West think and behave, relative to China.
- Finally, Infrastructure and Assets and the extent to which direct connectivity with Beijing and its communities is resulting in increased investment in Manchester and the wider North’s infrastructure and asset bases.
The report identified several key findings which show the significance of direct flight connectivity for the City of Manchester itself and the wider Northern Powerhouse region, in global innovation networks and value chains. These include:
- 265% rise in monthly values of exports from Manchester Airport to China.
- 24% increase in inward investment projects to the Northern Powerhouse.
- The realised contribution to the local visitor economy being twice the projected value before the scheduled flights commenced.
The report underscored the key role of Manchester Airport in delivering global connectivity for the Northern Powerhouse area. It recommended that prioritisation of improved long-haul connectivity to the North in the Government’s new Aviation Strategy would amplify the benefits and impacts identified. The report also recommended exploring and progressing joint UK-China collaboration initiatives to act on China’s projected outbound market growth.
The study has demonstrated the value and potential of this ‘developmental’ approach to impact assessment, exploring and describing local effects through multiple interacting pathways.
Lord Jim O’Neil, the economist who coined the phrase BRICS to describe the high growth markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China said:
“This is the first time that anyone has been able to pin-point so accurately the benefits of long haul connectivity between two countries and this fascinating report shows that the upside is far wider than one may think. … At the earliest opportunity further direct connectivity is needed in order for the UK to realise its ambition of China becoming one of its top three trading partners. This report makes clear why that is the case and should be essential reading for policy makers.”
Source: Quote taken from a Manchester Airport article.
The research outcomes were launched informally as part of our Movement Matters series, where a panel of experts across the domains discussed impacts of the flight route as seen from their varied perspectives.
Our report, The China Dividend: One Year In (PDF), was published in November 2017.