Making the invisible visible: matching West Midlands ICT SMEs with business opportunities

West Midlands ICT Cluster AWMistThis is a guest post written by Brian Prangle with contributions from Andrew Mackenzie.

West Midlands Regional Development Agency, Advantage West  Midlands (AWM) has unveiled its latest initiative to stimulate and develop the high technology sector.

AWMist (A Web Map-based Information Search Tool) is the first regional interface of its kind where collaboration, business opportunity building, and partnerships can be easily forged between the region’s ICT SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises) and those who can support and assist them, such as funding agencies, universities and business support projects.

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Innovation boosts productivity by two-thirds

Innovation is an essential driver for regional economic growth and a new national report has revealed how significant it can be in closing the productivity gap.

Two thirds of private sector productivity growth between 2000 and 2007 was driven by innovation, claims a new report by NESTA.

The findings are revealed in The Innovation Index: Measuring the UK’s investment in innovation and its effects (PDF, 1.59mb), the most ambitious attempt yet to measure the contribution of innovation to the UK’s economic growth.

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Birmingham is ‘best performing city’

Selfridges store in Birmingham

According to the Cushman & Wakefield European Cities Monitor 2009, Birmingham is the ‘best performing city’ in the country in terms of improvement on last year’s ranking.

The influential survey of 500 of Europe’s largest companies shows Birmingham rising seven places from 21st to 14th as the best European city for business, overtaking Manchester in the process which fell to 16th.

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Speakers announced for the 2009 conference

West Midlands: Fit for the Future?One month to go until the Observatory’s 2009 conference - “West Midlands: Fit for the Future?” – on Tuesday 20th October at the Ramada Hotel in Sutton Coldfield.

Book online or fax us a booking form

Entitled “West Midlands: Fit for the Future?”, the conference will follow on from a book of the same name launched by the Observatory in July. The focus will be on the economic recovery of the region, rather than the recession, and how we position the West Midlands to ‘hit the ground running’. Delegates will be encouraged to discuss issues raised in the book and influence development of the evidence base to inform the Single Regional Strategy.

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ONS article investigates economic productivity in urban versus rural areas

Office for National Statistics logoContrasts in the economic productivity of urban versus rural local authorities, and the factors contributing to the varying performance of the economies of English regions, are both the subject of an article in the latest edition of Economic & Labour Market Review.

The article in the ONS publication takes a detailed look at Gross Value Added per filled job (GVA per job) statistics for groups of local authorities in each English region, using DEFRA classifications (PDF, 52kb) which group local authorities according to their urban/rural composition characteristics.

In the West Midlands region and among the six local authority classifications, ‘Major Urban’ local authorities (for example, Birmingham) were found to be the most productive, with GVA per job averaging an indexed value of 90.4 (where England=100) for 2004 to 2006. However, this represented a noteworthy decline from the value of 95.8 recorded in 2001 to 2003.

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Developing a high growth knowledge economy in the West Midlands

Laboratory at Micropathology Ltd, Warwick Science ParkKnowledge intensive industries rely on innovation and knowledge to gain competitive advantage and, although the sector has grown rapidly in recent years, the West Midlands has struggled to attract these activities.

Through a state of the region dialogue on the West Midlands’ knowledge economy (pdf, 383kb), the Observatory has identified a range of actions to address this, developed and agreed by a range of policy makers, researchers and academics.

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Observatory launches new book ‘West Midlands: Fit for the Future?’

Stack of West Midlands: Fit for the Future? booksA new book from the Observatory, West Midlands: Fit for the Future?, was launched yesterday.

The book aims to stimulate debate, promote discussion and influence policy on the future growth of the West Midlands region. The focus is on the future prosperity of the West Midlands, rather than on the effects of the recession, and exploring the region’s ability to maximise its potential as we move out of the downturn.

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Tender for women’s enterprise research

Jewellery makingThe Women’s Enterprise Centre of Expertise has released a tender to conduct women’s enterprise research in the West Midlands.

The deadline for submissions is 21st July 2009.

Research rationale

There is currently a gap in regional women’s enterprise research which takes a strategic view of policy, documentary and research evidence, even though much has been done to promote the agenda across the region.

The absence of such a strategic view means that there is potential for women’s enterprise support to be divided into staged programmes (pre-start, start and growth as separate delivery systems).

The consequence of this division is that those programmes that cannot directly be seen to contribute to regional value-added, as they are too small or development, run the risk of losing budget or being stopped altogether because they cannot meet the strict evaluation criteria represented by Gross Value Added indicators.

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Regional perceptions indicator for the West Midlands

Broadway Tower between treesEngland’s glory or England’s shame – what’s your opinion of the West Midlands?

We all have perceptions about places and they shape what we do, where we go and how we invest.

Because of this we are now running a research project to find out what perceptions people have about the West Midlands, and how it compares with the other regions of England.

Results are due in November 2009, but for now you can find out more on the Observatory’s website.

Heart of enterprise: West Midlands feature in the Guardian

guardian200812031Wednesday’s Guardian newspaper included a special supplement to the Society Guardian all about the West Midlands, Heart of enterprise. If you missed it, all of the articles are available online.

The supplement includes commentary by Ian Austin MP, who re-iterated points made during his inaugural speech as Regional Minister for the West Midlands at the Observatory’s annual conference back in October 2008.

There are also articles looking at how the region is being affected by the current economic situation and what steps are being taken to address the current challenges. Regeneration schemes in the Black Country, Birmingham and North Staffordshire are featured.

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Evaluation of business support services

Business Link logoBusiness support services such as Business Link, Manufacturing Advisory Service and Train to Gain are an important part of the assistance offered to business to help them start, grow and prosper.

The last three years have seen significant changes in the way this support has been organised and delivered and the time is now right to evaluate how things are working out and what changes might be beneficial.

The way in which these services are delivered varies from region to region, so each region is evaluating their services differently. Here in the West Midlands, the Observatory has been asked to manage the research and analysis part of the evaluation. The work is being done speedily and will complete by the end of November.

Briefings on current and forthcoming Observatory research

At our recent Annual Conference there were four printed briefing papers on the Observatory booth. These briefing papers introduce four key current and forthcoming research projects.

If you didn’t get a copy, the briefings are available to download below:

West Midlands Regional Integrated Economic Assessment published

Map of West Midlands regionThe West Midlands is the first English region to produce a Regional Integrated Economic Assessment. The aim of the project is to provide an assessment of the performance of the West Midlands’ economy and of the factors which contribute to it. It also assesses the relative position of the different parts of the region.

The Assessment is made up of:

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Small and medium-sized enterprise 2007 statistics published

The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has just published its 2007 Statistics on Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the UK and its regions, including a statistical press release and a suite of data tables.

This year’s release includes the bi-annual regional breakdown of the national figures, listing the numbers of enterprises of various sizes in the West Midlands and other regions. The figures suggest several changes since 2005: the total number of enterprises increased by more than 20 000 to over 375 000, and total turnover increased by 10% to more than £210 billion.

Contributions to turnover were not even. 0.1% of all West Midlands enterprises employed 37% of the region’s employees, and contributed to 42% of the turnover.

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