Dave Maclean, Chair of the Digital Board at West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), led the first panel session of VenturefestWM 2018 to discuss ‘Growth Opportunities in an Evolving Regional Economy’.

Dave was joined by a team of experts, including, Paul Forrest from the West Midlands Economic Forum (WMEF), Alice Hu-Wagner from the British Business Bank and Julia Goldsworthy from WMCA.

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Now charged with leading the recent 5G win through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Dave Maclean gave homage to the collaborative nature of the region as “Team West Midlands.” Explaining that collaboration led to the success of the 5G project – West Midlands 5G – and set us apart from the competition. Dave asked that all organisations feedback with their views on how this new opportunity can be exploited (get involved here).

Paul Forrest is the Director of the West Midlands Economic Forum, a neutral independent forum designed to bring together representatives of the public, private and voluntary sectors to evaluate real trends in the local economy. WMEF provide bespoke independent research, as well as offering a neutral venue for dialogue through an extensive programme of events for the business community. Paul said:

“The West Midlands economy is one of the most dynamic in the world.

“The developments of our already world class infrastructure will offer many opportunities in road and rail, but we should not just focus on HS2 but wider.”

Alice Hu-Wagner is Managing Director for Strategy, Economics and Business Development at the British Business Bank. British Business Bank is a development bank wholly owned by HM Government. Their mission is to help drive economic growth by making finance markets work better for smaller businesses – wherever they are in the UK and whatever their stage of development. Alice said:

“As the West Midlands economy grows we need to ensure that innovators have better access to finance. We need to work together to understand the differences in regional access to finance and how best to respond.

“We also need to ensure that our innovation ecosystem is collaborative and well co-ordinated.”

Julia Goldsworthy, Director of Strategy at WMCA, leads on driving growth and economic opportunities from the Common Wealth Games, City of Culture and Local Industrial Strategy. Julia said:

“We have the best possible conditions for sustainable economic growth but the WMCA cannot deliver its Strategic Economic Planalone and needs to work with partners across the West Midlands to drive the strategy forward.

The WMCA will shortly be launching its Local Industrial Strategy consultation showcasing how the region will use its strengths to develop future opportunities. Exploiting the benefits of 34km of metro and 215,000 new homes by 2030 will provide new jobs in construction all adding to sustainable growth for the region. We aren’t just looking at hard economics but a better place to live by improving the quality of life for all.”

The West Midlands Industrial Strategy consultation can be found here.

The take home messages from the panel provide a picture of opportunity for our region but one message is clear – collaboration is key. In light of this we urge you to have your voice heard by taking part in both the West Midlands 5G and Local Industrial Strategy consultations and we all look forward to driving productivity and growth gains together as ‘Team West Midlands’.

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

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