Business and universities must collaborate on Heseltine project – BCU

BIRMINGHAM’S business community and universities need to collaborate in order to make a success of Lord Heseltine’s new Greater Birmingham Project, a city academic has said.

Beverley Nielsen, Director Employer Engagement at Birmingham City University, said the launch of the new project – a blueprint for determining local economic and social growth – was excellent both for the city and the wider region.

She said: “We urgently need to broaden our economic activities into a wider base of mid-sized businesses (MSBs) by drawing on the skills and expertise offered by our region’s economic champions and sector leaders, such as Jaguar Land Rover, JCB and Rolls-Royce.
“It will be essential to build on our region’s commitment to design and innovation to ensure we create new and radical products that will be attractive to both home and overseas markets.”
Research from BCU’s own think-tank, Idea Birmingham, has shown a direct correlation between a business’s focus on design and its growth capacity. The findings showed that where design leads the development of services and products, almost two-thirds (62%) of businesses were planning for growth of more than 10%.
“A lesson we can take from this research is the urgent need to roll out this successful business approach across the Midlands economy to create newly energised economic scenarios,” added Ms Nielsen.
She said this could be best achieved by building a network between key players, with, as the former Deputy Prime Minister has recommended, leadership being provided by the LEPs together with the Chamber of Commerce.

Universities, as sources of new knowledge, will have a key role to play in pushing forward the learning agenda.

BCU’s Looking for Growth report revealed that although the UK national economy has been stagnant for the past two years, the Midlands has looked overseas for growth and as a result, has been the second best performing exporter in the UK – a success that researchers say is being driven by local brand-led businesses.
The report also revealed:
•    87% of Midlands firms attributed their success to design and innovation and thought it helped give the region its identity
•    Over £3bn has been earmarked for investment in product design in key Midlands firms
•    The companies which invest the most in design are growing the fastest, exporting more and taking on more people, despite the difficult economic environment
•    96% of firms want to see the Midlands doing more to showcase the well designed and innovative products it produces.