Blog: Makerspaces and the Economy – an Expert Viewpoint

Iain Mansell, Executive Officer for Innovation at GBSLEP (Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership) and Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands, recently participated in the STEAM policy clinic, hosted by STEAMhouse in Birmingham, and has shared his thoughts on why Urban M will benefit local economies.

Why is the Urban M project interesting to you?

Through my role as Executive Officer for Innovation at Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership I work with a team to create policies and strategies to drive regional economic growth. The Urban M project has enabled me to widen my thinking, and to see evidence of best practice in other European cities that we can aim to replicate in the West Midlands. In a competitive economic environment this has been extremely valuable.

How it is addressing current/ long term challenges?

It is said that the UK has a long tail of innovation inactive businesses, and this is evidenced locally through the findings of the West Midlands Science and Innovation Audit. As innovation is essential for growth we need to provide new and better ways for our regional businesses to develop new ideas. STEAMhouse addresses this issue, removing barriers to innovation by providing access to the machinery, tools, and guidance that allow businesses to pilot potential new products and services. As the project is funded through GBSLEPs ERDF programme this comes without the financial risk of businesses having to invest large sums on equipment that may not be suitable for them. The initiative also encourages cross sector innovation in a collaborative environment, enabling the adoption of new ideas from peers.

What your hopes are for what the project can achieve?

My hopes are that this new style of working is adopted across many sectors, we are a big region and have space for plenty more versions of STEAMhouse! As I’ve proven myself, learning from peers outside of your immediate environment pays dividends in terms of innovative new ideas, and if new ideas translate to productivity gains then STEAMhouse will have inspired a step change in the way businesses operate. In the long term if we can enable business growth then we create jobs and grow the economy – in doing so we raise the quality of life for all of those that live and work here.

For more information on STEAMhouse, visit