Blog Post

Betting big on Manchester: why we are building Sourceful in the World’s Original Industrialised City

Sourceful News

Sourceful is a platform for brands to source more sustainable branded packaging. With customers and suppliers around the world, and team offices in Manchester, London, Amsterdam and Shenzhen, Sourceful is already a global business in footprint. But from the very beginning, we intentionally chose Manchester to be the founding location and our main headquarters. We love Manchester for both its history and as an amazing place to live and work, and I’d like to tell you a bit more about why Manchester is the perfect HQ location for us to build Sourceful.

First things first, my co-founder Sharon and I are “adopted” Mancunians. Sharon grew up on the other side of the world, in a remote mountainous city in China, and I grew up in Morden in South London. We moved to the North West early in our career and gradually came to the conclusion that Manchester was not just more affordable (relative to London), it also had a bright future as a global city.

Here are my four reasons why I feel connected to Manchester and think it’s perfect for Sourceful.

1. Alan Turing: my hero

I studied Computer Science at Trinity College, Cambridge, where I witnessed the impact and inspiration that comes from legacy. Knowing we walked and ate every day where Isaac Newton discovered gravity and Bertrand Russell wrote Principia Mathematica, was both a daunting and deeply moving experience. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus haunted my dreams but it was Alan Turing’s proof of the Halting Problem that has stuck with me as one of the most beautiful proofs and counter-intuitive results in Computation.

Thanks to the success of the movie, “The Imitation Game”, Alan Turing’s life and achievements are more well known now, but his contributions to Computer Science and AI can’t be understated. Alan studied at Cambridge and after Bletchley Park, he moved to Manchester where he worked on some of his most important work, notably his paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” whilst at the University of Manchester in 1950. In this paper, the “Turing Test” was proposed, which has captivated our thinking about the potential of artificial intelligence ever since.

By Paul Hermans - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Sourceful’s belief is that the power of technology and artificial intelligence can change the Supply Chain industry for good. By enabling greater transparency on one of the largest sources of carbon emissions, we can improve quality of life for everyone. Turing created a theoretical concept of a Universal Computing Machine in 1936 (A Turing Machine), but it was Manchester that holds the distinction of creating the World’s first stored-program computer, The Manchester Baby in 1948, developed at The University of Manchester. Our launch of Spring, the world’s first AI Packaging Inspiration image generation tool, continues this tradition.

2. International Industry and Talent

While London has long been the financial hub of not just the UK but also Europe, it's noteworthy that Manchester holds the distinction of being the World's First Industrialised City. Nicknamed “Cottonopolis”, it was the centre of the global cotton industry, reaching 32% of global cotton production in 1871.

The Royal Exchange, completed in 1921

Manchester has transformed over the last couple of decades with skyscrapers appearing all over the city, but you also see a lot of conversions of cotton mills, industrial warehouses and factories that retain the character and the history of industry. I love that the worker bee has been the symbol of the city since 1842, and reflects the recognition of the hard work that has gone into making the city what it is.

Not only celebrated for its rich industrial heritage and vibrant cultural scene, Manchester is rapidly emerging as a thriving hub for international talent (amongst our 21 nationalities, over 15% of our UK team studied at a University in or near Manchester). This transformation is largely fuelled by its world-class universities (The University of Manchester is highly rated for both research performance and academic reputation), which attract a diverse array of students and academics from across the globe. Additionally, Manchester's booming tech sector, driven by innovative startups and global giants (The Modern Milkman, TalkTalk, BE.EV), is creating a dynamic environment for skilled professionals in fields such as digital technology, creative arts, and science.

One key thing we knew before starting Sourceful was that supply chains are deep, complex and especially global. Machinery, materials, labour and transport all require a global connection. While our roots firmly anchor us in the industrious spirit of Manchester, Sourceful is inherently and deliberately globally connected. Our team, supplier network, and client base span across borders, reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of both the city and our business. In this age of interconnectedness, Manchester stands not only as a regional powerhouse but as a city with a global mindset, and we at Sourceful are proud to be a part of this thriving ecosystem.

3. Materials Innovation is the past and the future

Digital technology is not enough to “fix” the supply chain. We are going to need to find better ways to make products, and breakthrough material innovation is a key component of this. One of the greatest discoveries in the early 21st century was undoubtedly Graphene, which was pioneered in the University of Manchester, a wonder material that has wide ranging impacts due to its conductivity, strength and weight.

We are proud of Sourceful's collaboration with the SMI Hub (Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub), headquartered in the heart of Manchester, who have supported us as we analysed new and existing materials for sustainability in packaging.

The true benefit of this collaboration is the empowerment it provides to businesses. By using best-in-class research capabilities to get precise and transparent information, organisations can make better, more informed decisions about their packaging choices.

4. The cost of living secret

It is no surprise that London, like most capital cities, is the most expensive to live in the UK. On the other hand, Manchester has quickly developed its offering for life and work, in many aspects it rivals London, whilst still providing a significant cost of living saving of c. 33.5% [Source: Numbeo Jan 2024]. Specifically, consumer prices are 19.3% lower than in London and rent prices are 51.7% lower than in London.

Numbeo screenshot, Manchester vs London

Greater Manchester has many things going for it, with large long term property developments to boost housing, a thriving and growing young population, as well as a great city/countryside balance, with the Peak District and Lake District close by.

Sourceful morning hike, Peak District.

Voted 3rd Happiest City in the World (Timeout, 2019),  3rd Best City in the world (TimeOut, 2021) and 2nd Friendliest City in the world (TimeOut, 2022), Manchester’s sense of shared community and friendliness to all is a key reason why people move and stay in and around the city region.

In 2023, several members of the Sourceful team decided to relocate from London to Manchester, a trend that we see increasing over time. From 2024-2026, Manchester is expected to increase 1.8% per year in job numbers, which is faster than any other city in the UK, and outpacing the national average of 1.3%.

Wrapping up

Every month, we welcome new Sourceful team members from around the world, which is an amazing part of building a business in this era. When we bring team members to visit Manchester, we like to tell them about the heritage of Manchester to the world, and why we are proud to be headquartered here. Over time, we hope to play our part in continuing the story of Manchester as a launchpad for Industry, Innovation and Global Impact.

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