Turning ideas into wealth the focus for new innovation group

A new board responsible for ensuring economic growth in the West Midlands is driven by innovation has met for the first time with their first task to identify key high-tech projects needing government cash.

The West Midlands Innovation Board was set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). It includes senior representatives from the region’s six leading universities and key innovation experts from the private sector.

The key focus will be on leveraging more cash into the region, to support innovative projects which help unlock the jobs of tomorrow, aligned with the government’s Industrial Strategy.

The West Midlands has already enjoyed success in securing government funds, including the National Battery Manufacturing Development Facility at the University of Warwick, the brownfield reclamation centre in Wolverhampton, the Life Sciences Park at the University of Birmingham and test facilities for autonomous vehicles in partnership with Jaguar Land Rover.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Innovation projects developed by universities, very often in partnership with the private sector, have a huge impact on the regional economy and help drive key sectors, such as next generation technologies and life sciences.

“Genuinely world-class research and development is taking place on university campuses and in our businesses, fitting for a region that gave the world Watt, Boulton, Cadbury and the industrial revolution.

“However, very often, these projects are expensive. Although our universities are successful in securing much of this funding, I believe we can significantly increase the amount of innovation cash coming into the region by being better co-ordinated and prioritising our targets against those of the government.

“I asked each of the universities to come forward with their ‘wish list’ of priority projects so that we can agree a way forward of tapping into the various funds and programmes made available by the government.

“These are projects across industries as diverse as rail technologies, construction and transport, to a facilities to study mental health to a centre for cyber security.

“We also looked at how we might pursue the four Energy Innovation Zones which have been proposed by the University of Birmingham.

“We can achieve so much more by working together. Today was an important step forward.”

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