The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) prepares to launch the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator to bolster the region’s innovation and R&D capability and capacity to spark commercial growth and investment.
First announced in the Government’s 2022 Levelling up White Paper, the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator will commence in May 2023, funded through a share of a £100m fund from Innovate UK, to be divided by three regional Innovation Accelerators over the next two years.
Aims of the Innovation Accelerator include accelerating the region’s engineering research & development, boosting inward investment, and reinforcing the West Midlands’ position at the frontier of the UK innovation revolution by enabling businesses to develop new products, processes and services.
The West Midlands Innovation Board has targeted investment on projects enabling new solutions around Medical and Clean Technologies, following initial expressions of interest in June 2022.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, and chair of the WMCA, said: “I’m delighted to see the Innovation Accelerator fund finally land in our region which will unlock a further £150m of private sector co-investment. The funding will inject momentum into the delivery of the West Midlands Plan for Growth which sets out how we will unlock hundreds of thousands of new jobs and be home to major global companies in this decade.
“One of my key mayoral missions is to restore our status as the fastest growing region outside of London – just as we were pre-pandemic. Innovation is central to achieving that mission.
“We’re already a leading region for UK innovation when it comes to automotive and aerospace – with every £1 of Government spending for Research & Development translating in to £4 of business investment. This latest news will help us to build on our progress to date – with Government’s forthcoming Trailblazer Devolution Deal and proposed programme of Investment Zones set to usher in exciting times ahead.”
Mike Wright, chair of the West Midlands Innovation Board said: “The Innovation Accelerator is set to turbo-growth of our regional economy, including practical support to innovative clean-tech and med-tech firms, as well as driving cross-sector innovation.
“The close working with Innovate UK and the West Midlands Innovation Board on this is a great example of partnership work benefiting the region, based on input last summer from over 200 innovation leaders from business, academia, and Government.
“The Innovation Board now has a significant challenge, following the submission of a number of high-quality projects right across the region, to both back the five projects, and seek investment for further projects in the pipeline.”
Councillor Ian Brookfield, leader of Wolverhampton Council and WMCA lead for Economy & Innovation said: “This investment injects momentum into the delivery of the West Midlands Plan for Growth which sets out how we will nurture growth in future industries right across the region, creating over 40,000 jobs by 2030.
“Government identified the West Midlands as a pilot because of our innovation leadership and plans. The Innovation Accelerator is a tangible example to the world of how we support our businesses to translate knowledge into commercial success and good quality jobs, and we will put that message at the heart of our efforts to attract inward investment in local economies across the West Midlands.”
Indro Mukerjee, chief executive at Innovate UK said: “As the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK is dedicated to building strong regional partnerships to boost local innovation and commercialisation. Our Innovation Accelerators will attract further private sector investment in city regions, driving economic and societal growth and benefiting local communities. Together, we can unleash the full innovation potential of every community in the UK.
George Freeman, Minister of State for Science Research & Innovation at DSIT said: “Through Record investment in our UK science, technology & innovation sectors, the Innovation Economy is creating new career opportunities in the campuses, clusters & companies of tomorrow.
“That’s why UKRI is putting clusters at the heart of its of its £25bn budget up to 2025, and why our £100m Innovation Accelerator Program provides £33m each to 3 emerging clusters to attract industrial co-investment and become major, globally competitive centres for research and innovation.
“The W Midlands Cluster is becoming a world class hub of R+D in med tech and clean tech.
“I’m delighted that local leaders have come together to use our £33m to launch such exciting programs with industry and Universities in this exciting area.”
Our regional project portfolio includes:
6D-IA, led by the University of Birmingham (Health/Med Tech)
The West Midlands ‘6D’ Innovation Accelerator (6D-IA), coordinated by the University of Birmingham, will unite key stakeholders (universities, hospitals, industry and government-funded ‘Catapults’ for manufacturing innovation) to supercharge the region’s ability to accelerate new health and medical technologies, delivering a streamlined programme to help companies navigate “pinch-points” in the process of medical translation. Our ‘6Ds’ include diagnosis of company needs; definition of major NHS and industry-based challenges to target; development and refinement of prototype products; deployment of innovation in real-world NHS settings; diversification of supply chains, skills and services; and demonstration of significant economic and health benefits for our region.
Clean Futures, led by Connected Places Catapult, in conjunction with Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation and Coventry University (Clean Tech)
Clean Futures will develop the West Midland’s innovation ecosystem helping to drive economic growth, increase industry engagement and accelerate the commercialisation of SMEs in the region. Based from specialist hubs in Dudley and Coventry, the project will support the development and diversification of transport manufacturing supply chains in the West Midlands, enabling the transition from fossil-fuelled to clean-tech solutions. It will see SMEs supported through funding programmes to develop, demonstrate and grow clean-tech solutions in partnership with OEMs, Tier 1s and the wider ecosystem.
Clean Futures will provide a foundation for sustainability through the Clean Futures Academy, bringing together the West Midlands innovation community to support longer-term sustainability and social benefit. By bringing together the West Midlands innovation community, Clean Futures will drive jobs and growth, bringing new investment to the region and convening buyers and suppliers to tackle the challenges of clean transport.
The West Midlands Innovation Programme, led by West Midlands Combined Authority (Clean Tech & Health Tech)
The West Midlands Innovation Programme addresses the Capability and Capacity strand of the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator, supporting cross-sector, demand-led innovation and enhancing the connectedness and operation of the region’s innovation ecosystem. Led and managed by the West Midlands Combined Authority, enabling it to enhance other West Midlands Innovation Accelerator projects and wider regional innovation activity, and constructively interact with further regional growth levers.
West Midlands Innovation Programme unites a team of sector innovation experts under the banner of the Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands, bringing a strong private sector voice and capacity to identify and address business innovation barriers and enablers. The team will work with partners to utilise a flexible innovation fund to pilot the development of multiple novel, collaborative interventions that overcome barriers to and exploit opportunities for demand-led innovation within and between sectors. In addition, a series of diverse and inclusive sector specific working groups and events will enable networking, good practice sharing, connections and partnerships.
The Biochar Clean Tech Accelerator, led by Aston University (Clean Tech)
The Biochar Accelerator will build on research facilities at Aston University to develop growth potential targeting export contracts worth over £200 million of low carbon products produced by a regional industrial cluster.
The project aims to commercialise knowledge, facilities and the results of long-term university research for the benefit of the environment and regional economy; continue the development of a high-capacity low carbon engineering cluster in the West Midlands; open up new domestic and export markets to help rebuild engineering and manufacturing in the region; provide a development pathway from which to launch new technology-based opportunities as they reach maturity; and engage staff and students through projects and placements to seed further future commercial innovation.
Digital Innovation Transformative Change (DIATOMIC), led by Connected Places Catapult, in conjunction with Aston University, Birmingham City Council, Birmingham City University, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, and University of Birmingham (Health & Clean Tech)
DIATOMIC will accelerate place-based innovation in the West Midlands. Harnessing the region’s existing international relationships and through a series of targeted initiatives, it will focus on growing the region’s clean tech, health tech and med tech markets. The programme is led by Connected Places Catapult, the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport and place leadership.
We will enable civic leaders to set innovation challenges, support local SMEs to respond and benefit the community through the UK’s first inclusive innovation hub. It will also promote the use of data to enable better place-based decision making and develop an impact assessment toolkit.