£60m research centre to create 150 jobs

Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya

The West Midlands will become home to the UK Mobility Data Institute, creating up to 150 jobs, after Chancellor Philip Hammond provided £20m in his Budget.

The £60m centre will be at the WMG complex and will collect, process and analyse transport data generated by new mobility technologies.

WMG founder Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya said the Government cash injection would mean a start on construction could be as early as three months away but would depend on planning permission being obtained.

He hoped it would be up and running sometime in the first quarter of next year.

“I am very pleased,” he added. “It will make a significant difference because the future is all about big data.”

Hammond’s Budget has extended the Transforming Cities Fund by a year, to 2022-23, providing a further £71.5m for transport investment in the West Midlands.

A second win for the West Midlands Combined Authority was the news that it is one of five local authorities that can now access the local infrastructure rate. The five authorities will be able
to borrow a total of £275m at the discounted interest rate of gilts +60 basis points for “infrastructure projects that are high value for money”.

In Coventry, the government will invest £8.5m in the city when it hosts the UK City of Culture in 2021. The funding will support Belgrade Theatre to refurbish the auditorium and establish a new creative talent hub. It will also invest in Coventry’s Cathedral Quarter, including the refurbishment of historic venues, the creation of additional exhibition space and a centre for music education and concerts.

Conservative Mayor Andy Street believed the Budget contained “some positive news” for the region.

He said: “The money announced for the West Midlands once again demonstrates the Government’s confidence in our region and our ability to build a strong and resilient economy that can meet the needs of local people and the challenges and opportunities of Brexit.

“The extra funding for transport infrastructure is especially important and will help us manage the increased congestion and disruption that comes with a growing economy and the construction of major projects like HS2. It will also help us tackle poor air quality.

“The Chancellor has also recognised our role as a global player in the development of future transport technologies. The £20 million he has awarded for a new data research centre will help keep us at the cutting edge of this future industry.”

The Budget also confirmed the £165m investment to support the Commonwealth Games Athletes’ Village, which was announced earlier this month.

In addition, the Chancellor also said the government will publish a refreshed Midlands Engine Strategy next year.