The technology industry in the north of England is set to receive a boost as Virgin Atlantic announces plans to introduce direct flights from Manchester Airport to San Francisco. The significant move will slash travel times to the Californian city to a mere 11 hours. It also cements direct access to the Silicon Valley, a booming business hub that is home to hundreds of start-ups as well as some of the most prominent technology companies worldwide – including Google, Apple and Facebook.
At present, Silicon Valley dominates tech venture capital funding, and accounts for 25 per cent of venture capital investment. Manchester is the second largest tech hub in the United Kingdom, with around 52,000 industry jobs, and a regional output of 2.2 billion per year. Despite this, businesses in the north feel that they are currently missing out on important investment opportunities because funders from the region do not want to spend the time travelling to and from Heathrow. Ken O’toole, Managing Director of Manchester Airport, said the route was a milestone – not only as a new destination but also to boost the North’s economy. Mike Tools, founder of the leading northern communications agency considers the move to be a “potentially game-changing development for Manchester and the northern powerhouse initiative as a whole”. Flights are due to start from the summer of 2017.