Major report puts science into region’s response to stubborn productivity challenge

The opportunity to leverage science and innovation excellence to drive up productivity across the West Midlands has been set out in a major report that will be launched next week.

Stimulating and supporting investment in new products and processes is seen as key to addressing the stubborn productivity challenge, with the report’s authors acknowledging “the dial has not shifted over the last decade”.

The report says: “In order to ‘move the dial’ on the productivity performance relative to the national level, identifying, supporting and exploiting fully the existing strengths in our business base, and leveraging the critical mass of world-class science and innovation assets in the region, will be critical.”

Organisations from across the West Midlands are working together to ride the wave of an increased policy focus on innovation, shown by the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper and the CBI report “Now is the Time to Innovate”, as the UK looks to shape its post-Brexit economic future.

The three Local Enterprise Partnerships that sit within the West Midlands Combined Authority – Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, and Coventry and Warwickshire – funded the report that builds on a Midlands-wide science and innovation audit that was published last year.

The 40,000-word report will provide the evidence base to support funding bids and allocations, and be used to attract inward investment.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said: “Perhaps most importantly, the report gives us the evidence we need to stimulate and steer action and investment by the West Midlands Combined Authority and partners.

“With the right interventions, innovation can substantially contribute to both productivity gains and the effective reform of public services.”

The audit, by economic regeneration consultancy SQW, identifies four “innovation systems anchors” which it says “are responsible for much of our nationally and internationally significant science and innovation activity”.

Two universities, at Birmingham and Warwick, alongside the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry and Jaguar Land Rover “characterise and embody the excellence in science and the commercialisation of knowledge” in the West Midlands.

Street added: “The SIA is really important piece of work as it sets out the market strengths the West Midlands enjoys in key sectors where we have a competitive advantage in the future.

“For example, these include some of the advanced engineering industries such as driverless and battery vehicle manufacture and design.

“This is where world-class innovation organisations like the Warwick Manufacturing Group and Manufacturing Technology Centre and tier one producers like Jaguar Land Rover have established a leadership role, meaning we are currently in a race with Germany and the United States to be the global leader in this sector.”

The report will be formally launched by Street next week, at Venturefest West Midlands, an event which brings together more than 700 entrepreneurs, innovators and investors.

Tom Westley, Black Country LEP Board Member, believes the public and private sector “can now use this work to identify further opportunities for future growth and investment.”

He added: “The Science and Innovation Audit is a timely report that evidences the region’s world-renowned science and innovation assets, particularly in areas such as next generation transport, energy, sustainable construction and health technologies, underpinned by expertise in advanced manufacturing and engineering, digital and systems integration.”