State of the West Midlands 2010 report published

State of the West Midlands 2010

The State of the West Midlands 2010 report is now available, accessible through this interactive website or as a pdf download (1.74 Mb).

The report sets out the evidence about some of the key challenges facing the West Midlands and its localities. Since the general election earlier in the year, much has changed in the way that the West Midlands is governed, but the big issues that it faces remain. Issues such as the growing economic output gap, high levels of worklessness, skills levels, the ageing population, the consequences of climate change and the poor image of the West Midlands.

This year, for the first time, we have published the report in an interactive web version (as well as a pdf -1.74Mb). This will allow you to provide comments on the report, as well as providing easy access to the issues that are of most interest to you.

State of the Region – image and identity of the West Midlands

West Bromwich at nightLast week, we started a new State of the Region dialogue on the image and identity of the West Midlands.

The future of the region will be determined by the decisions that individuals make – decisions such as whether to locate in the region, to invest in business or property, to study at one of our universities or to visit the region for business or leisure.

All of these decisions will be influenced by people’s view of the region’s image and identity.

A range of information is already collected, locally, regionally and nationally, about how people view the region and how it compares with other places.

There is also more general research, looking at what drives and changes image and identity. The workshop brought together different sources of evidence to determine the story they tell us about the West Midlands, summarised in the three presentations available below.

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What makes a sustainable community?

Ludlow ButtercrossCan we use a mix of  indicators to show which of our communities are sustainable?

That’s the question the Observatory is aiming to answer as we continue our State of the Region dialogue on sustainable communities.

We published What makes a community sustainable? (pdf, 457kb) in October 2009. This report built on a workshop held in April 2009.

In the report we took the starting point that a successful West Midlands must be made up of communities where people want to live and work, now and in the future. The work then tried to understand the factors which make communities sustainable in this way.

The next stage of the work is to look at how we can identify which of our current communities are sustainable and which need action to help them to change.

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State of the Region dialogue on climate change published

Illustration: solar panel, wind farm, tractor, farming, person saying 'walk the talk'We’ve published the State of the Region dialogue Challenge or opportunity? How to plan for climate change (pdf, 1.3mb).

This report aims to help decision makers understand how climate change will impact on their areas and also give practical ways of adapting to, and taking advantage of, the opportunities and challenges presented by climate change.

The report covers six policy themes:

  • Built environment
  • Natural resources (water, land use and food)
  • Transport
  • Health
  • Energy and waste
  • Business, skills and education

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West Midlands ‘output gap’ has risen to £15bn

State of the Region 2009The West Midlands’ economy is less productive than the national average, and the gap is growing, according to new research released by the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

In the 2009 ‘State of the Region’ report, the Observatory has revealed that compared to the UK average, the economic output gap of the West Midlands – caused by the region’s lower economic output per head of population – has risen from a figure of £10 billion in 2005 to a current estimate of £15 billion.
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New report on innovation in a changing economy

BMW hams hall

In difficult economic times, firms need to adapt if they are going to survive. Innovation is particularly important at such times. However, as the economy changes to one increasingly dependent on services then so must our view of innovation.

One of the Observatory’s new State of the Region thematic reports, The Importance of Innovation in a Changing  Economy (PDF, 685kb), looks at how innovation can continue to drive change in the economy of the future.

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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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Modelling population change in the West Midlands: call for information

Crowd walking up and down stairsHow do you try to understand the changes that are happening in your populations? Have you developed a model to try to understand population change? If so, we would be interested to hear from you.

As part of our State of the Region dialogue on population change, we’re looking for regional examples of how people have modelled population change, particularly where they are not based on the Office for National Statistics’ population projections.

We know that there are several different models used across the West Midlands in different policy areas. In this year’s State of the Region report we will try to bring these together and summarise the various models that are used.
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Call to action on climate change

Becky GillDue to popular demand, we’re sharing the opening presentation from our state of the region climate change event held back on 20th April 2009.

Becky Gill, Head of Sustainable Development at Government Office West Midlands, spoke on the region’s Climate Change Action Plan.

The Action Plan’s vision is of a sustainable, low carbon West Midlands that is well-adapted to the impacts of climate change and supported by a low carbon economy.

Becky called on the whole region to get behind the vision, and for focussed action to achieve it.

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Can we do it? Walking the talk on climate change

Chris CreanChris Crean is the West Midlands Regional Campaign Coordinator for Friends of the Earth and he provided the final presentation to delegates at the Observatory’s State of the Region climate change event.

Chris posed the question of whether we are prepared to, or capable of, walking the talk on climate change.

Chris’s presentation considered the impacts of regional strategies and the contradictions and challenges they present when looking at climate change.

In simple terms Chris’s message was “efficiency, efficiency, efficiency!”

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Evidence based climate change policy: six tricky challenges

Roger LevettRoger Levett of Levett-Therivel sustainability consultants led the presentations at the Observatory’s State of the Region Climate Change event. Roger laid down six tricky challenges to delegates.

He stressed that the evidence is already overwhelming that unless we cut greenhouse emissions deeply, fast, soon, irreversible catastrophic climate change will almost certainly become unpreventable. Delaying action to improve the evidence is no longer necessary.

Roger was also keen to lay down challenges to the Observatory in how we present and use the data to influence policy makers in the region. How we tackle these challenges will be key to the development of the State of the Region dialogue.

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Is this the future for the West Midlands?

Ann-Marie BrouderDr. Ann-Marie Brouder from Forum for the Future shared a vision of what the region might look in 2020. This is not just any vision though, as it considers what a low carbon West Midlands will look like.

Developed on behalf of Sustainability West Midlands, A low carbon vision for the West Midlands 2020, looks at the technologies and developments that may have shaped our lives over the next decade.

Will we be seeing vertical farms in our city centres or power generating dance floors in nightclubs?

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Climate change dialogue underway

Discussion at the eventWe had so much interest in our new State of the Region dialogue on climate change on Monday, that we had to move it to a bigger venue!

The dialogue got off to a great start, and there seemed to be real concensus amongst the forty or so delegates on how to progress some of the issues raised.

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Subnational population projections

Anthony SzaryThe Observatory’s recent event to launch the State of the Region dialogue on population change started with a presentation from Anthony Szary on subnational population projections.

Anthony is the Regional Statistician for the Office for National Statistics and is based at the Observatory.

Anthony took the group through the ONS process for calculating population projections at the subnational level. The easy part (relatively!) of the calculation is to take account of trends in fertility and mortality while it’s much more difficult to try to measure trends in migration.

The latest population projections show that the West Midlands population is expected to grow by 11.4% between 2007 and 2027 to over 6 million. This is slower than the expected growth across many of the other English regions.  However, this projection is based on past trends in fertility, mortality and migration and could be very different if, for example, the birth rate became much higher or lower.
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