We are Innovate UK’s regional managers for the East and West Midlands respectively. The Midlands Engine is a relative new kid on the block compared to the Northern Powerhouse, but we think it has the same, if not more, potential!
£217bn and 100 million people
Why? Well, combined the East and West Midlands contributes £217bn to the UK economy and is home to 10 million people. It has world beating, innovative companies such as Rolls Royce, Jaguar Land Rover and British Aerospace. Its 20 universities contribute research excellence, highly skilled graduates and vibrant city centres. No wonder, the Midlands is looking forward to hosting Innovate 2017 in November. The 2 days at the NEC will be highlighting many of the regions’ innovators, large and small.
Midlands Engine Science and Innovation Audit
East and West, coming together as the Midlands Engine, aim to create a powerful new economic player to compete internationally and accelerate growth of its local economies. To do so requires investment in infrastructure, connectivity, skills and…. innovation. We been particularly interested in the Midlands Engine Science and Innovation Audit setting out the region’s existing innovation assets and priorities for future development.
From manufacturing to medical tech
What does the Midlands economy conjure up? Manufacturing (cars, trains, planes, ceramics), medical technologies (Nottingham University invented the MRI scanner), energy, though of the low carbon sort, rather than the cooling towers of the coal fired power stations you see on the train journey through the Trent valley. And food processing; Melton Mowbray pork pies, Stilton cheese, Walkers crisps, Fish Fingers, Cadburys Dairy Milk...?
Reassuringly, the Midlands Engine Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) confirms these impressions and builds on these strengths identifying 4 market driven priorities
- Next generation transport
- Medical technologies and pharma
- Future food processing
- Energy and low carbon
Time will tell if there are real, not just asserted, synergies across the region – between companies, universities, towns and cities - which further accelerate innovation, productivity and economic growth in these priority sectors.
However, alongside those innovation clusters, we must not forget the wider innovation infrastructure of highly educated citizens and connected, convivial places offering opportunities for networking and exchange. These attributes support existing innovation and provide future resilience. Diverse, vibrant places are less vulnerable to future shocks than one company, overly specialised places.
Those places are also more likely to support the Midlands Engine SIA’s enabling competencies of innovation. The Midlands has a tradition of making stuff, which continues to this day. Over 600,000 people in the Midlands work in manufacturing accounting for over a quarter of GB manufacturing employment. The region offers great careers for engineers whether working for some of our largest companies or specialist, niche companies – in the automotive, aeronautical, energy, medical and agri-tech sectors.
If engineering builds on a centuries old tradition, the Midlands is also at the forefront of the digital economy; whether in using data analytics to improve health care, manage the environment and assess financial risks or in the creative sphere of gaming, fashion and marketing. Although concentrated in the larger cities, digital skills are becoming ubiquitous.
Finally, there is a flourishing network of innovation hubs, enterprise zones and science and innovation parks offering opportunities for collaboration and multi-disciplinary interaction to build new start-ups, solve new challenges, and, hopefully, build the next generation of world beating businesses.
See you at the leading innovation event, Innovate 2017
So the NEC is not just a convenient location for Innovate 2017 – it at the heart of an innovation engine!
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