Business Support & Innovation
The West Midlands economy is at a critical point — before the Covid pandemic, we had forged a position as the fastest-growing region outside London and broke through the £100 billion economic output mark. The region’s industrial mix and demography meant the West Midlands was hit particularly hard by the economic impact of the pandemic and new trade frictions with the EU.
Whilst the region’s productivity levels are relatively strong in certain sectors, such as advanced manufacturing and automotive, it performs less well against the national UK average — 11% between authority areas within the region.
Progress So Far…
To ensure a quick return to growth, whilst building resilience, the West Midlands has developed a landmark new strategy — Plan for Growth. It seeks to accelerate and amplify growth to become the fastest growing region outside of London by 2030. This document provides the basis for the Trailblazer Devolution Deal proposals.
Overseen by the Economic Growth and Innovation Boards, the West Midlands is already delivering using existing powers and funding through:
- UK Shared Prosperity Fund, using aproportion of the £88m for businesssupport;
- Core Growth Hub offer;
- Regional business support programmes,such as West Midlands Made Smarter;
- Private sector-led cluster leadership,aligning with specialist regional capacityon trade, foreign direct investment, andinnovation.
Work has also begun on developing the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator with ideation workshops having taken place and various expressions of interest received.
A new co-commissioned business support model will harness the region’s economic potential, improve productivity and provide flexibility to adapt to an increasingly challenging economic environment by investing in tailored support to tackle barriers to innovation, enable diversification and access to new markets, and promote sustainability. In the Levelling Up White Paper, the Government announced the development of the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator, which will see around £33m invested in the region over the next three years. This initial investment, coupled with our proposals to ensure a proper legacy for the Innovation Accelerator, would give us the opportunity to boost economic growth and target and affect societal challenges in the West Midlands.
Levelling Up Mission:
By 2030, pay, employment and productivity will have risen in every area of the UK, with each containing a globally competitive city, and the gap between the top performing and other areas closing.
We want to agree and co-commission with Government a joined-up approach to business support in the region. We will:
- Resource and align local targeting of keyfund streams such as UKSPF, Growth Hubs,and business support resources includingBritish Business Bank funding;
- Establish an integrated key accountmanagement service of the region’s top500 strategic businesses – building thework of the Midlands Engine Hub intocohesive regional structures;
- Increased access to, and alignment of,central Government insight and informationto inform delivery (e.g. HMRC R&D taxcredits).
We want to use the capability and capacity from the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator to double the amount of public R&D investment in the West Midlands by 2030. This means:
- West Midlands maintaining a prioritisedpipeline of R&D projects which areconsidered by UKRI, its Research Councilsand other public innovation agencies whenthey develop their business plans;
- UKRI and its agencies like Catapults(including those based outside the region)capturing their place-based impact on theregion’s business base and communities.
What We Hope to Achieve
A more co-ordinated approach to business support would help increase economic growth and the number of jobs in transformational sectors, as well as productivity. We would also see a reduction in the number of jobs paid below living wage, in line with the metrics detailed in both the Levelling Up White Paper and the WM Outcomes Framework.
Increased public R&D investment would increase the leverage of private sector investment. As a result, we would see additional growth in areas that benefit from R&D, and more broadly, they would have the ability to address societal challenges in the West Midlands - including those relating to the environment, health, and wellbeing.