May – August 2019
The West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy(WM LIS) was published in May 2019 and is a long-term plan aimed to increase productivity. It is locally led and developed in partnership with government, based on clear evidence and aligned to the national Industrial Strategy. One of the identified sector strengths in the WM LIS was that of construction, which is also a market driven priority for the region as evidenced in the 2017 publication of the WM Science and Innovation Audit(SIA), led by the Innovation Alliance. Following the publication of the WM LIS, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the West Midlands are now tasked with developing LIS Sector Action Plans, which aim to provide a strategic focus for the strong performing sectors identified in the LIS. The Black Country LEP is leading on the development of the Construction Sector Action Plan.
Since the publication of the WM SIA, the Innovation Alliance has been working with the construction industry to see where we can help to provide innovative solutions to common sectoral challenges. This has included running three workshops to gain an understanding from sector leaders on what these challenges are and how we can help to solve them.
The Black Country LEP attended these workshops and has used the intelligence gained to help develop the WM LIS Construction Sector Action Plan.
Following the workshops that the Innovation Alliance has run along with subsequent dialogue, the Black Country LEP has been able to identify some specific interventions to help inject innovation and thus strengthen the economic output of the construction sector in the West Midlands. These include:
- Integrating construction into innovation proposals as part of the emerging WM Innovation Programme
- Encouraging investment in digital technologies, including 5G, identified as a key opportunity for sector growth at our workshops
- Share good practice from other sectors, such as energy and transport, in terms of innovations that they have adopted and how they could be transferred
- Support construction SMEs to collaborate with each other and with large companies to win contracts through maximisation of existing programmes
- Mapping and raising awareness of sector business support products and activities.
The Innovation Alliance’s venture into the construction sector only started in 2018and given its various facets and challenges we have uncovered some huge opportunities where innovating could bring about many benefits. Knowing where to start and how to progress these along with which areas the Construction Sector Action Plan should focus on have been the biggest challenges so far.
The next stage will involve taking forward activities identified in the Plan and how this can happen efficiently and with maximum impact. This will also be a huge challenge but, if done right, could help to transform the construction sector in the West Midlands.
In the future
The ‘what next’ bit is crucial. The priorities have been identified, but now it is a case of turning these into actions. The Innovation Alliance will continue to support the LEP, West Midlands Combined Authority and the industry at large to enable some of these actions to contribute towards a thriving and more productive construction sector in the region.
“The Innovation Alliance has proven to be a key partner towards the development of the LIS Construction Sector Action Plan. The workshops it has convened for the sector in the past 18 months have helped to shape the Plan as they have enabled the identification of the specific challenges and opportunities that require focus. It means we can better tailor interventions to the areas that will generate the greatest economic impact.” Charlie Hopkirk,Economic Intelligence and Policy Analyst – Competitiveness, Black Country LEP.