Justine McGuinn takes a personal look at the property bash in Cannes

The global real estate conference and exhibition known as MIPIM was held in Cannes last week (14- 15 March 2023).

Manchester returned after a four-year absence with a smaller delegation but with its usual swagger including prominent branding and a packed schedule. This was a decent step back into the international event where investors are seeking a home for their cash and innovators are presenting their wares. There were 30,000 participants from across the planet this year. 

This year's event seemed different with smaller numbers, much less alcohol flowing and a real focus on equality and diversity across all aspects of the programme

Manchester’s programme covered innovation, sustainability, green growth, fairer and more inclusive cities, levelling up, smart growth through innovation, net zero towns, urban evolution and the currently controversial 15-minute neighbourhoods (there's a Confidentials.com article comimng up about this). 

Concretene was also highlighted. This Manchester innovation is ‘a graphene-enhanced admixture for concrete that delivers savings on cost and CO2 emissions’. 

The final day of panel discussions focussed on Factory International – Culture in the City, Culture as a driver of growth across the UK: ESG, The Responsible Revolution, Future Proofed Investment: Can Manchester Deliver for Generation Alpha? Imagining 2033; and Levelling up Greater Manchester. 

Gary Neville, speaking on stand about his Manchester property activity including his St Michael’s development in the city centre, couldn’t help himself joking about Manchester topping Liverpool in their presence at the show. 

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St Michael's development taking shape in Manchester city centre Image: Confidentials

Confidentials.com is active in both Manchester and Liverpool so let’s turn our attention to Liverpool for a moment. 

The city’s presence, while less overt than Manchester’s, was focussed on strategic private events. City leaders were spread conference-wide speaking at events organised by other cities, Government agencies and high-profile private sector exhibitors. This approach probably gained a good audience spread but it made it more challenging for those companies and individuals outside the partnership to target their delegation.

Liverpool also had key influencers attending the events that focussed more on their paying delegation. This included Lord Johnson, Minister for State in The Department for Business and Trade who also dropped in at the Manchester stand. 

Liverpool’s public events were also held in partnership covering themes such as waterside regeneration. Their closing drinks event seemed to top Manchester’s in the availability of quality beer and three choices of gin. Whisper it, but Manchester apparently approached Liverpool for more beer as they’d run out and, in true partnership style, Liverpool duly obliged. Liverpool was attending under a banner of “Showcasing innovation; celebrating culture; and building inclusive and sustainable economies”.

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A 'MIPIM' lad with phone outside the Liverpool stand Image: Confidentials

Sometimes criticised as a ‘jolly for the boys’ highlighted by parody Twitter accounts like @MIPIMLads, this year's event seemed different with smaller numbers, much less alcohol flowing and a real focus on equality and diversity across all aspects of the programme. There are differing views as to whether MIPIM is still relevant when measured against cities’ aspirations for a net zero carbon economy given that international travel is necessary, however, the potential connections and the collective education on how to make the built environment more sustainable generally outweigh the necessary travel. It was evident, however, that some organisations with larger delegations chose to travel by train rather than air. 

As a strategic PR advisor for clients, including local authorities, I think the latter institutions should continue to seek to reach that national and international audience. Leeds-based UK REiif in May is being identified as the alternative to MIPIM. Is there room for both? Probably ‘yes’. 

Three days to access this many people, and this much knowledge, innovation, and technology from across the world is not easily replicable, although an international sporting events organiser revealed technology at MIPIM that could potentially be adapted. Yet, at present, as with so many interactions human, face to face, connection remains best.

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Thursday stand session ESG - The Responsible Revolution; L-R Tanya Francis, Real Estate Partner, CMS; Andrew Temple, Senior Operations Director, WSP; Jane Healey Brown, Director, ARUP; Andrea George, Director, Bruntwood Works; Will Lewis, Founding Director, OBI Image: Confidentials

The city leadership in Manchester were minus Mayor Andy Burnham and leader Bev Craig who were attending South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas, so the city was represented by the chief executive of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), Eamon Boylan, chief executive of Manchester city council, Joanne Roney and GM Deputy Mayor (and Mayor of Salford), Paul Dennett. The leadership from Stockport, Wigan, Salford, and Rochdale were also in attendance. No doubt the other GM authorities will seek to review their position after attending UK REiif in May and potentially join in 2024. 

Liverpool’s presence was led by Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham, Combined Authority chief Katherine Fairclough as well the incoming leadership, Nuala Gallagher (City Development), Sophie Bevan (Development and Major Projects) and likely future leader Cllr Liam Robinson. 

All this took place in a budget week when the Government made a major devolution deal announcement on Wednesday. Eamon Boylan from GMCA commented that "it's a good day for Manchester". 

The devolution deal means Mayor Burnham and GMCA will be given more powers over transport, housing and technical education. GM will now be treated like a government department with mayor Andy Burnham gaining full financial control. Buses, trams and local trains will be brought under one public transport system similar to London’s. GM will also be allowwed to create the country's first integrated technical education system. £400m will is earmarked for housing. 

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Manchester city centre from Climat restaurant Image: Confidentials

Whilst The Times leak slightly dampened the big devolution announcement, when the news was released officially others were also happy with new information that came forth including Liverpool and Tameside which received unexpected levelling up funds for some of their planned projects.

Elsewhere at the show, financiers were busy checking their phones with shaky hands as news of Credit Swiss’ woes came in. It’s now clear fellow Swiss bank UBS has absorbed Credit Swiss. I was involved managing some of the activity at their joint cocktail party with Leaman Brothers at MIPIM 2008 - take from that what you will.

Justine McGuinn of Just PR & Marketing is a strategic communications advisor specialising in the built environment sector in the UK and based in Manchester, www.justprm.co.ukjustine@justprm.co.uk, 07903 661228

There's a MIPIM video link here.

Justine Mc Guinn
Justine McGuinn Image: Justine McGuinn