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First Local Industrial Strategy To Drive Growth Across West Midlands

16 May 2019

On Thursday 16 May, Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street was joined by Business and Industry Minister Andrew Stephenson for the unveiling of a new Local Industrial Strategy for the West Midlands – the first of its kind in the UK.

Launched at the region’s Advanced Propulsion Centre in Coventry, the local strategy builds on the strengths of the automotive, life sciences, creative and business services sectors at the heart of the regional economy to deliver inclusive growth and high-skilled jobs.

It comes alongside ambitious plans to develop the next generation of battery technology for electric vehicles at the UK’s flagship Battery Industrialisation Centre, backed by an additional £28 million investment.

The West Midlands is the first ‘trailblazer’ region to agree a Local Industrial Strategy, a key enabler to deliver the government’s national Industrial Strategy, driving growth, productivity and boosting earning power across the region.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said:

The West Midlands is already home to the industries of tomorrow. We have some of the world’s most competitive and innovative companies in advanced manufacturing, electric and autonomous vehicle development and medical research.

This Local Industrial Strategy also shows how we can become a global player in the digital and creative industries. The Strategy will build on these strengths to release the region’s full economic potential for the benefit of all communities across the entire West Midlands.

It will help us tackle issues like air pollution and climate change while creating a robust economy for the future – one that delivers decent, well paid jobs for local people and the right conditions for competitive, world leading businesses to thrive and grow.

Business minister Andrew Stephenson added:

The launch of this first Local Industrial Strategy in the West Midlands is testament to the local civic and business leadership in the region, builds on its continued success to ensure every community across the region reaches their potential.

Our modern Industrial Strategy aims to boost productivity across the country by backing businesses to create good jobs and increase earning power. This Local Industrial Strategy is tailored to the specific challenges in the West Midlands, and will set an example for other regions to follow.

Our funding for the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry is a key part of this, and will see a world-class facility developed in this automotive heartland, further cementing opportunities, growth and inward investment in the West Midlands.

Government and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the new government-backed body responsible for UK investment in research and innovation, have provided extensive support to businesses and groups in the West Midlands, investing over £1billion in the West Midlands since 2016.

Productivity in the West Midlands grew at twice the rate of the UK average in 2018 and this new strategy – designed in partnership with the West Midlands Combined Authority, Local Enterprise Partnerships and developed in collaboration with hundreds of businesses, public partners and civil society – sets out how the region will work with Government to:

  • cement the West Midlands’ position as the UK’s automotive heartlands, playing a leading role in trials of connected autonomous vehicles, with the West Midlands aiming to deploy the first fully operational connected autonomous vehicles in advance of the 2022 Commonwealth Games;
  • drive investment into electric vehicle manufacturing in the region, completing the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre and maximising the impact of the Faraday Battery Challenge
  • put the West Midlands at the heart of transport innovation in the UK by delivering the UK’s first large-scale 5G testbed
  • help meet the Artificial Intelligence and Data Grand Challenge by supporting the development of a West Midlands Translational Medicine and Med-Tech commission to accelerate the ‘lab to patient’ ecosystem
  • grow the strong creative and digital industries and business and professional services sector

The West Midlands is the fastest growing UK region for goods exports, and the government’s national Industrial Strategy is further supporting economic growth and boosting local businesses through investments including:

  • £20m for the West Midlands towards it becoming the UK’s first Future Mobility Zone, covering Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry - introducing new technologies to encourage more seamless and efficient journeys;
  • Up to £50m to put the region at the forefront of 5G developments as the innovative new home to the UK’s first multi-city 5G testbed. This trial of new high-speed connectivity will pave the way for a rollout across the country;
  • £332m from the government’s Transforming Cities Fund which is working to extend the city-region’s metro system, with an initial focus on extending the system to connect cities with the towns between Wednesbury and Brierley Hill in the Black Country;
  • A Skills Deal with the government that could unlock up to £69m to help equip people in the region with the right skills for the jobs and industries of the future and;
  • The most funding for any UK region from the government’s flagship fund for research and development, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which has so far invested £286m into projects in the region to date. 

Cllr Ian Ward, portfolio holder for economic growth with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and leader of Birmingham City Council, said:

The West Midlands has always been a hotbed of creativity and innovation and it's appropriate that a region that was at the very heart of the Industrial Revolution is now leading the way with this ambitious Local Industrial Strategy.

This is about unlocking innovation and business dynamism in every part of the region to ensure we build on our record of success and unlock our full potential.

But it is also about making sure people have the skills needed to fill the new jobs being created.

Acknowledging that growth alone will not be enough, this strategy aims to deliver inclusive growth, driving up productivity and growing our regional economy in a way that can bring greater opportunities and prosperity to all our communities.

Richard Butler, CBI West Midlands Director said:

As the first local industrial strategy to be launched, we hope the West Midlands Industrial Strategy will start a domino effect of robust strategies being rolled out across the country. “It shows the real value of political leaders working with one another to unlock economic growth - creating jobs, driving productivity and improving living standards across communities.

The West Midlands is well positioned to deal with the big challenges of tomorrow, with the Advanced Propulsion Centre delivering zero emission vehicles and the region’s development of the UK’s first multi-city 5G testing ground.

The best way to build upon the strengths of the UK’s vibrant regions is for business and politicians to work closely together. Now is the time to redouble efforts on implementing the local industrial strategies, making their impact real to businesses and people across the country. Failure to address our stubbornly persistent productivity challenge is not an option.

The Local Industrial Strategy announcement comes as the Government holds the next round for its flagship Strength in Places Fund; a £236m fund that brings together research organisations, businesses, and local authorities to develop pioneering ideas that will deliver local economic growth and create high value jobs.

Read more here.

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