Commonwealth Games confidence adds volume to region’s sector strengths
The West Midlands strength in technology is underpinning a more confident regional voice that is looking to be heard above its noisy neighbours at international property showcase MIPIM.
Andy Street has, as chair of the Greater Birmingham Local Enterprise Partnership then mayor of the West Midlands, been a consistent presence promoting the city region in Cannes for nearly a decade.
This year, he is buoyed by the success of the Commonwealth Games in raising the city’s global reputation.
“We all know the story that the brand perception of Birmingham in the West Midlands has moved forward dramatically since the Games,” said Street. “The number of business enquiries is double what it was this time last year.
“The hard facts are also a reason to be confident as we go forward. We have the largest economy of any Combined Authority area with a really vibrant manufacturing sector, and cutting-edge manufacturing is a critical part of what we’ll be talking about this week.”
He added: “Across all of our key sectors, the linking factor is our strength in tech. We have the fastest growing tech sector in the UK, which grew by £4bn in just one year, and we’re seeing those tech startups in all of those sectors.
“We can be confident in our sectors because we’re confident about the skills and the connectivity to the supply side.”
Connectivity is one of three key messages from Neil Rami, chief executive of the West Midlands Growth Company which has led the region’s presence in France.
Rami said: “The first is our focus on connectivity, the importance of infrastructure. HS2 is happening, will be happening, is already happening in our region. But also our connectivity in markets across the world.
“The second thing is our focus on innovation-led development. Our focus on healthcare, future mobility, and sustainable development is particularly important for the West Midlands.
“My final message is an obvious one because we are very much open for business. This is one of the most important regions in the UK, performing very well and working in partnership with government, making it as easy as possible for you and investors to make things happen in our region, and that’s very much why we’re here.”
Street, who has been mayor since 2017, added: “We take all the underlying ingredients of success and we tell the story of innovation.
“We are the only multi-city 5G testbed in the UK, we’re the best connected of any region in terms of 5G technology, about 50% of our population now with access to 5G.
“We are the first future mobility zone in the UK, the electric vehicle manufacturing and the battery sector is very much concentrated around Coventry.
“Increasingly, we’re a centre of data-driven healthcare. The advantage that we have with the diversity of our population being the perfect place for drug trials. We said to drug companies, you can have the population of the world in one city in Birmingham for your trials.
“This is the place for investment around the cutting edge of new innovative sectors.”