Understanding our local populations

Richard Wilson from Sandwell PCTAt the Observatory’s recent event to launch the State of the Region dialogue on population change, Richard Wilson from Sandwell PCT spoke about some of the problems with population data. However, with help from quotes from David Brent to Albert Einstein, Richard argued that these problems should not lead to ‘data paralysis’ where problems with data become reasons for not making decisions.

Richard said that although population change is nothing new, it is important to understand how our population is changing by understanding, for example, which age groups are changing quickest, what the new family structures are and where new people are coming from.

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Effective product design key to success in service innovation

palie-smart-portrait_v10_image_gwSpeaking at the Observatory’s innovation workshop, Palie Smart from Cranfield University highlighted the importance of incorporating effective product design in achieving successful innovation.

Palie suggests that the shift towards long term service delivery and sustainable innovation means that manufacturing firms can rarely remain as manufacturing companies, if they are to survive in the long run.

As services grow in importance in driving economic growth, the environment through which innovation occurs is becoming increasingly complex and the boundaries between products and services becomes fuzzy.

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Importance of innovation and post recession opportunities

Patrick HarrisAt the recent innovation day, keynote speaker Patrick Harris reminded delegates of the importance of innovation in times of economic recession.

Patrick, founding Director of thoughtengine, acknowledged that economies are undergoing significant changes brought about by painful economic contraction. He argues however, that the fundamental basics starting with knowledge and working through to implementation, while also recognising the role played by luck, remain the essential drivers.

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Moving the equalities agenda forward

Chris Allen listens inLast week the Observatory launched the  State of the Region dialogue on population change. This event was the first step towards understanding what evidence on the changing population is needed by policy makers in the region.

Chris Allen, Director of Research and Policy at brap, was one of the presenters at this event and his presentation Beyond being statistically challenged: How do we move the equalities agenda forward? is now available to view here. Continue reading

Population change dialogue underway

Chris Allen listens inWe had a full house at the Observatory this week, to launch a new dialogue in our state of the region process on population change (pdf, 489kb).

With talks from Anthony Szary (Office for National Statistics), Anne Green (University of Warwick), Chris Allen (BRAP) and Richard Wilson (Sandwell PCT), the dialogue got off to a flying start.

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Innovation and the recession: innovation workshop day 19th March 2009

Patrick HarrisThe Observatory is pleased to confirm Patrick Harris as the keynote speaker at our forthcoming Innovation Day, ‘From recession to growth – the importance of innovation in a changing economy‘.

The full day workshop will be held in the Technology Innovation Centre at Birmingham City University, on 19th March 2009.

View the full agenda (pdf, 91kb).

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West Midlands Rural Affairs Forum Conference 2008

Man pinning information to a notice boardDelegates gathered at the Holiday Inn in Bromsgrove on 12th November 2008 for the fifth West Midlands Rural Affairs Forum conference.

The Observatory was asked to present at the event and talk about the State of the Region with particular reference to some of the key challenges likely to be faced by the region’s rural communities.

The main challenges facing the rural West Midlands are not new ones—ageing population and housing affordability in particular—nor are the rural parts of the region immune to the effects of the credit crunch but these challenges can often mask opportunities.

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Observatory on BBC1 Politics Show

The Observatory’s State of the Region Report will feature on the regional section of the BBC’s Politics Show this Sunday (26th Oct 08). The programme starts at 12pm on BBC1. Hope you get chance to watch.

ADDED 28/10/08: The article can be viewed on the BBC’s iplayer. The Observatory features about 43 minutes in and will be available until next Sunday (02/11/08).

Observatory annual conference a roaring success

Well, our conference is over for another year – and what a conference it was! A packed Royal Court Hotel enjoyed speeches from our new regional minister, Ian Austin, as well as Professor Carl Chinn and Professor Alan Harding.

Left to right: Richard Hyde (Chair of the Observatory), Ian Austin MP (Minister for the West Midlands), Rosie Paskins (Chief Executive of the Observatory)

Ian Austin (centre) launched the Observatory’s State of the Region 2008 report, saying:

“Through the State of the Region process it is good to see that the West Midlands Regional Observatory is putting in place practical measures to bring policy makers and research experts together.”

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State of the Region dialogue on the knowledge economy

The new state of the region process aims to engage with the region’s policy and decision makers on a range of key issues.

One of these is the knowledge economy. While UK demand for higher level skills is mediocre by international standards (with 28% of the working age population qualified to level 4 or above the UK was 11th of the 30 OECD countries in 2006), this is even weaker in the West Midlands. Less than 24% of those working in private sector industries in the West Midlands region had higher level skills and qualifications, well below the England average of 28%.

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Sponsorship opportunities at the WMRO Annual Conference 2008

Our 2008 Annual Conference will be held on Monday 13th October 2008 in Coventry and gives organisations the opportunity to raise their business profile amongst the key decision makers in the data, intelligence and research community within the West Midlands.

This year, the conference has again attracted several high profile speakers, including Liam Byrne, who will be launching the new State of the Region synthesis report Ian Austin MP, the new Minister for the West Midlands.

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Keynote address at Observatory conference by “the most powerful person in the West Midlands”

Liam Byrne

Liam Byrne

Liam Byrne MP, Minister for the West Midlands, was announced as the most powerful person in the West Midlands on Friday of last week according to the Birmingham Post’s “Power 50″ list.

Liam will give the key-note address at the Observatory’s annual conference on 13th October 2008, launching the State of the Region synthesis report and focusing on the importance of a robust evidence base for the region’s strategies – particularly the forthcoming Integrated Regional Strategy.

Julia King, the Vice-Chancellor of Aston University (herself number 3 on the “Power 50″) will form part of a panel of experts who will answer questions from delegates in the morning session. The panel also includes Cllr Roger Phillips, Brian Woods Scawen, Mike Beasley and Tracey O’Brian.

Places cost just £60 and are limited in number – so book your place now!

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