Update on our future

Following announcement of its abolition, Advantage West Midlands is seeking new ownership for the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

Advantage West Midlands is currently negotiating with their preferred bidder, Marketing Birmingham, on the Observatory’s behalf. The Agency’s Board will make a final decision on the outcome of those negotiations later in the year and no later than 1st September 2011.

In the interim, the Observatory will pause its operations and all staff have been redeployed into closure and transition activities at Advantage West Midlands. As such, you may not receive a reply to emails and phone calls. The website and blog will also not be updated during this period.

What does preferred bidder mean?

That Marketing Birmingham have exclusive rights to negotiate with Advantage West Midlands regarding the assets of the Observatory. There is no commitment on either side to a sale or transfer in advance of those negotiations.

What happens to the Observatory at the moment?

As the Agency is now focused on its closure, the Observatory’s operations have been temporarily paused. As such, we are not able to respond to enquiries and the website will not be updated.

Who do I talk to about this?

From Advantage West Midlands
Pat Jackson, tel 0121 503 3205, email patjackson [at] advantagewm.co.uk

From Marketing Birmingham
Tim Manson, tel 0121 202 5031, email Tim.Manson [at] marketingbirmingham.com

The future of the Observatory

Following the announcement of its abolition, Advantage West Midlands is seeking new ownership for the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

Advantage West Midlands received two expressions of interest to an open bidding process, which closed on 19th November. Marketing Birmingham has been selected as the preferred bidder and Advantage West Midlands is currently negotiating with them. The Agency’s Board is expected to make a final decision on the outcome of those negotiations at its January meeting.

Being the preferred bidder means that Marketing Birmingham have exclusive rights to negotiate with Advantage West Midlands re the assets of the Observatory. There is no commitment on either side to a sale or transfer in advance of those negotiations.

As the Agency is now focused on its closure, the Observatory will continue to operate, but at a greatly reduced capacity. As such, responses to enquiries may take longer than normal and our website (www.wmro.org) will be updated less frequently.

For more info, contact:
From Advantage West Midlands – Iain Neville tel: 0121 380 3563, email: iainnev [at] gmail.com
From Marketing Birmingham – Tim Manson tel: 0121 202 5031, email: Tim.Manson [at] marketingbirmingham.com

What does ‘innovation’ mean for cultural organisations anyway?

Following a preliminary discussion paper, NESTA has now published its proposal for an ‘innovation framework’ for use by cultural organisations and funders. Based on case study research with the National Theatre and Tate, authors of Culture of Innovation: An economic analysis of innovation in arts and cultural organisations suggest that ‘innovation’ within cultural organisations can happen across four main areas: audience reach, artform development, value creation and business models.

As part of the research, there is a consideration of  audience development strategies employed by the National Theatre and Tate. This includes an interesting comparison between the demographics of Gallery users and those of online audiences; for example, Tate’s web visitors during one campaign period were more likely to be female / ethnically diverse / have lower incomes than ordinary Gallery visitors. It will certainly be interesting to note whether these trends hold true as more data of this nature begins to filter through.

Download report

Photo by Demarmels

Local tourism industries generate over 6% of the region’s total economic output

According to an analysis by the Tourism Intelligence Unit at Office for National Statistics, the economic output (‘GVA’) generated by West Midlands-based tourism businesses accounts for a relatively small proportion of overall regional GVA (6.2%) compared to other parts of the UK such as the South West (8.9%) and the North West (8.3%). However, given that under some definitions of the tourism sector (such as the narrower, DCMS definition used in our Culture & Prosperity report), tourism industries appear less important to West Midlands economic output, this new paper may cause a shift in perception to a certain extent.

Boeing 777 on runway at Birmingham AirportIndeed, the paper (and its definition of the tourism sector) may trigger a reassessment of the importance of tourism to the national economy generally. For example, the finding that tourism contributes 7.1% of all GVA in the UK contrasts with a recent study commissioned by VisitBritain, which suggests the visitor economy directly generates 4.0% of UK GDP.

Notes: GVA and GDP measures are different and therefore not directly comparable, but in this instance, it was deemed useful to compare the two studies to explore different assessments of tourism contribution to the overall economy.

Download the full article

Photo by Martin O’Connell

New report confirms growth in local creative workforce

Recent work by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found a national and regional growth in the level of creative industries employment between 2006 – 2008. According to data sourced from the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR), employment in creative firms across England increased by 11% (compared to a 2% average growth in employment for all sectors). The level of creative industry employment growth in the West Midlands region (+19%) was relatively high compared to other regions and, in line with national trends, was more marked than the average increase for all sectors within the region.  

These findings confirm trends reported last year in our Culture & Prosperity: the economic role of culture in the West Midlands. Although the methodology and timeframe differed slightly across the two papers, the conclusion is the same: a regional growth in creative industry employment compared to the national creative industry average and compared to the average for all regional firms.

Unfortunately, as the author of the paper points out, there are continued issues around getting hold of more recent creative industries data. Both mainstream definitions of the creative sectors (DCMS evidence toolkit & Frontier Economics) use 2003 Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes – rather than the newer 2007 codes.

From 2009, the data for the IDBR has been collected based on the current SIC 2007 codes, something which poses problems for cultural researchers in that the process of converting 2003 codes to 2007 codes leads to data that is not exactly comparable with pre-2009 data. This situation could be seen as problematic during the aftermath of a recession when a clear picture of the economic situation is particularly helpful.

Download the report and accompanying dataset

Notes: The ‘official’ definition of the creative industries sectors used by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) remains that documented in the DCMS Evidence Toolkit. The Frontier Economics definition, although widely known, remains experiential at this time. 

Photo by Dean Terry

Oracle summer 2010 newsletter out now

Read our Oracle summer 2010 newsletter (pdf, 404kb)The summer edition of our Oracle newsletter (pdf, 404kb) is now available, rounding up our recent research.

Rosie Paskins, Chief Executive of the West Midlands Regional Observatory, introduces the newsletter with updates on how our research is being used and how we’re working hard to ensure local authorities, businesses and forthcoming Local Enterprise Partnerships can access and benefit from our research:

In what has been an interesting but rather unsettling few months for all those working in the public sector, the Observatory has continued to provide West Midlands decision makers with solid and reliable evidence on which they can base their decisions.

This summary of our work over the course of 2009-10 (pdf, 750kb) shows the many different ways in which Observatory research is being used.

Despite turbulence in local and regional government, the social and economic challenges facing the West Midlands remain. The Observatory continues to provide high quality research into the underlying causes of those challenges. In a recent survey of our users, partners told us that their satisfaction with the Observatory and its work is at a five year high, with nine out of ten users rating our research as independent and objective.

At present, we are working hard to ensure that local authorities, businesses and forthcoming Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are able to access our research and benefit from it. LEPs will almost certainly inherit new responsibilities around economic development, worklessness, skills and low carbon. The Observatory has a wealth of expertise in each of those areas, and we are used to working across local authority boundaries. So in a world of Local Enterprise Partnerships, we can provide important insight and an objective assessment of the facts, to help decision makers take tough policy decisions with confidence.

I hope you enjoy reading about our recent research. As ever, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Rosie Paskins
Chief Executive

Related links

Inward investment into the West Midlands 2009/10 – a local analysis

In 2009/10 there were 84 inward investment successes in the West Midlands and another four knowledge-based investments. These investments created over 1,500 new jobs and safeguarded another 4,300.

Although these 88 investments represented the lowest number of jobs created or safeguarded since 1992/93, they also represented the 7th highest total number of projects since 1991.

Pie chart shows 38 inward investments in West Midlands metropolitan areas and 49 inward investments in the shire counties over 2009 to 2010Inward investment is usually spread reasonably evenly between the West Midlands metropolitan areas and the shire counties. In 2009/10 the shire counties attracted the majority of inward investment projects (55%). See left.

However, the metropolitan areas of Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton have attracted perhaps just over half of the projects over the years – see below. The number of jobs created and safeguarded also generally follows a similar pattern.

Stacked bar chart shows percentage of inward investments into West Midlands metropolitan areas versus shire counties between 1991 and 2010

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