In the opening address of Venturefest West Midlands 2023, Andy Street had introduced the region’s new business support ambitions. This session allowed a more detailed discussion then led by Dan Carins (WMCA), with David Hope (Coventry City Council) and Mohammed Zahir (Birmingham City Council).
Business support across England and in the West Midlands is changing. We have benefited for many years from business support funded by EU funds. This ends in June 2023 and we enter a new a period of UK support, boosted by new powers in the Trailblazer Devolution Deal for the region.
Business support going forward will be primarily determined locally – for the West Midlands this is by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). WMCA, in conjunction with its seven member local authorities, has developed and agreed the ‘West Midlands Plan for Growth’ which sets out the path to return to pre-pandemic levels of growth, spreading opportunity and jobs across the region and helping to level-up the UK. After forging a position as the fastest-growing region outside London in the decade to 2019, and breaking through the £100 billion economic output mark, the region’s industrial mix and demography meant we were hit particularly hard by the economic impact of the Covid pandemic and new trade frictions with the EU.
The ‘WM Plan for Growth’ is focused on clean and inclusive economic growth, driven by the private sector, with the public sector helping to create the conditions for investment and prosperity. In the West Midlands we know that must be a joint effort.
The private sector plays a critical role, finding commercial opportunity, driving investment and creating wealth. The WMCA brings regional leadership with a scale and simplicity helpful to business, while also reflecting the range of different needs and opportunities of different towns, cities and rural areas across the region. Working in conjunction with local authorities and universities as local anchor institutions, the Combined Authority will deliver conditions for growth building on the strength of eight key sectors and cross cutting themes.
The eight existing clusters delivering high value growth, skills and jobs based on existing strength and further market opportunity will be targeted, these are:
- Manufacturing of electrical light vehicles and associated battery storage device
- Health-tech and med-tech
- Aerospace (including manufacturing alternative fuels)
- Logistics and distribution
- Professional and financial services and supply chain
- Creative content production and gaming
- Manufacturing of future housing
- Modern and low carbon utilities
Cross sector and underpinning themes will also be supported, particularly skills and training, digital and tech, productivity, and start-ups. General business advice will be available through the new centralised Growth Hub along with more use of private sector business support services.
The new, regionwide Growth Hub with local hubs will be available from 1 April 2023 to build on the success of the existing provision. It is anticipated there will be small SME competitive grants to support companies’ investment, with the criteria to be announced soon.
Other existing key services will continue to support digital and innovative growth; these include Innovate UK Edge, export support from the Department of Business and Trade, Made Smarter, Help to Grow and Catapults.
In summary business support will remain a core offer across the region, but it will be different and more focused on contributing to high value growth based on digital and innovative products and services demanded across the world.
You can access speaker slides here.
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