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.

The actions are:

The region has a relatively poor record in attracting high value added international businesses. To address this there’s a need for organisations such as Advantage West Midlands to:

  • Focus activity on ‘niche clusters’ where the region has strengths
  • Target appropriate foreign companies via a coordinated programme of activity in key overseas markets

While demand for highly skilled ‘knowledge workers’ is currently below that of other regions, graduate and other higher level skills will be critical to future success.

To more effectively exploit ‘latent’ demand for higher skills the report suggests that there is a need for Advantage West Midlands, the Universities West Midlands and each university to:

  • Increase availability of work placements that help graduates to acquire the skills they need to access employment
  • Improve access to the research and training expertise of the region’s universities
  • Improve the effectiveness of careers information, advice and guidance

At the same time many graduates have a negative perception of the West Midlands as a place to live and work. But these perceptions are becoming increasingly outdated as initiatives to regenerate the region begin to have an impact.

Strengthening the region’s offer to knowledge intensive businesses and knowledge workers, requires action in two areas by Advantage West Midlands, Marketing Birmingham and others charged with marketing and promoting the region:

  • Enhancing ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ factors that are likely to make the West Midlands a more attractive place to live and work
  • Countering negative, often outdated, perceptions of the West Midlands and placing as much emphasis on attracting skilled people to the region as well as businesses

Even when higher skilled workers are attracted to live and work in the region, deficiencies in the skills of managers and leaders inhibit their ability to maximise the benefits of their skills and talents.

To increase the uptake of leadership and management development by the region’s businesses it will be important for both commissioners (for example, Advantage West Midlands and the Learning & Skills Council) and providers (for example, universities, further education colleges and private training providers) to:

  • Adopt a more entrepreneurial approach with the development of more flexible training provision and a focus on outcomes such as improved business performance
  • Make the case to businesses for investment in training followed up with more effective business engagement

Related links

3 Responses

  1. A number of these arguments are now well rehearsed in earlier WMRO publications. There is an implication here about ‘upskilling’ the current workforce e.g. those with intermediate and technical level skills.
    We are planning to try to address some of these issues (and others) in the sub-region with some WNF funding from BE-Birmingham. Will post summary of these proposed actions on our website soon.

  2. Thanks for this Patrick – if you could send a link to the site that would be great. It would be good to reflect progress and findings from the programme in future reports

  3. Andy – Link and further explanation/details on our website as promised

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