Innovation and the West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy

Our latest Policy and Practice breakfast event focussed on developing the thinking of the West Midlands Combined Authority on the trailblazing West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy, and the importance of innovation as a driver for productivity and growth. In particular, this blog considers the input gained from our wide range of stakeholders with Patrick White (WMCA Director of Industrial Strategy) on 5th July.

The Context of the Local Industrial Strategy:

Patrick White.jpg

Pam 1

Pam 2

(Patrick White, WMCA, presents the WMLIS)

WMCA mini  Our Region

We are a major part of UK economy, seeing 20% growth in the last 5 years, making the West Midlands the largest Combined Authority economy at £87.5bn GVA. This comes as no great surprise. Our three-city region was the birth place of the industrial revolution and continues to be an engine of high-tech industries perfectly positioned for the future. With cranes littering the skyline you only need look around you to see growth, and if you haven’t visited our cities in the last few years you will be welcomed by the visible confidence in investment.

WMCA mini  Our Specialisms

Getting to this point has been by no means serendipitous – our high-tech industries are our shining light.  If we show commitment to supporting our sector strengths, encouraging lessons of best practice to be shared between our great sectors, we will drive a new kind of innovation that will continue to see the West Midlands flourish.


(Sector Strengths)

WMCA mini  Our Challenges

Although we clearly have a lot to shout about as a region it would be remiss not to understand the challenges ahead if growth is set to continue at pace. 185,010 more people need to be qualified to NVQ4+; 129,939 more people need to be in employment; and 1,468 new businesses need to be nurtured if we are to meet the national average.

WMCA mini  Our Principles

To see productivity and growth within these key sectors the West Midlands Combined Authority is developing a Local Industrial Strategy based on the following six principles:

  • Exploiting the uniqueness of the West Midlands and our specific offer and strengths
  • Focussing on impact (impact on value and supply chains)
  • Building on existing LEP and CA strategies
  • Being explicit about how we will create the conditions for both inclusive growth and productivity
  • Being bold about our investment in human and natural capital – skills, leadership, environment and inclusion
  • Defining one West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy with clarity about place and 3 LEP geography

WMCA mini  Our Local Industrial Strategy

So taking all these factors into account, what will our local industrial strategy look like? Here’s  a snapshot…

LIS on a page

(West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy)

IAWM mini  Developing the innovation theme in the WM Local Industrial Strategy

With innovation being identified as a cross cutting theme of the strategy, the West Midlands Combined Authority partnered with the Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands to engage our diverse network of innovators within the region to gain valuable insight into what a West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy Innovation Framework should look like.

Andrew Sleigh

(Andrew Sleigh, Event Chair)

On 5th July 2018 45 regional experts from industry, academia and the public sector came together, hosted by Ernst & Young LLP, to discuss how the public sector and private sector can encourage West Midlands businesses to do more and better product and process innovation to create significant market opportunities.

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(Innovation Alliance Stakeholder Table Discussions)

As reliable as ever our stakeholders did not disappoint! The discussions flowed and a plethora of ideas were provided as contribution to the thinking on the innovation theme in the WM LIS.

IAWM mini  In Summary

Details of the discussion are being considered by the WMCA as the LIS is drafted, but in summary the following central themes emerged as areas of opportunity and future action to stimulate business innovation and growth in the West Midlands.

Engagement of business with R&D facilities:

  • Enhance facilities and business access to collaborative maker spaces and modern manufacturing demonstration for trialling innovative products and processes.
  • Integrated local knowledge exchange enablers between research organisations and business, including innovation vouchers and various placement/partnership options.

Promoting business to business innovation:

  • Support for co-creation and transfer of solutions within and between supply chains.
  • Challenge-led networks to provide foresight and communicate demand from large organisations for innovative solutions to SMEs, including a ‘minimum viable product engine’.
  • Identification of demand for intermediary products (say a £3-4m opportunity) and support the creation of a supplier cooperative/ mid-sized business to meet that need.

Culture change, business support and skills for innovation:

  • Cooperation between public and private sector business support to establish integrated pathways for innovation support and funding.
  • Creation and use of a local bank of case studies and speakers to be drawn on for events, blogs, publications etc.
  • Multi-agency approach to retraining existing workforces, graduate retention and inspiring next generation to ensure all the modern manufacturing skills to meet market demands.

IAWM mini  Next Steps

The full report was circulated to stakeholders on Monday 23rd July (copies available upon request). You can also view Patrick White’s presentation here: Innovation event 5 July – PatrickW. Further input is welcome, so if you didn’t manage to attend the consultation event, or have additional ideas you would like to put forward, then please email

The event was a perfect example of how we deliver against our key objectives of building and maintaining an innovation ecosystem and stimulating a pipeline of innovation activity. As always, we thank everyone from the Alliance that engaged and we will reconvene soon to drive these suggestions forward.

If you would like to participate in our future events, suggest speakers or venues, or be added to our mailing list please contact or

(Author: Iain Mansell, Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands)