As our forthcoming Gateley Plc Midlands Restructuring Conference focusses on the complex challenges facing the Midlands economy, we look at the findings of a recent report by one of our guest speakers from industry.
The Midlands Engine Partnership (Midlands Engine) is a partnership of Local and Combined Authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, universities and businesses working together to promote growth and invigorate the economy in the Midlands. The Government launched its Midlands Engine Strategy (Strategy) in March this year, including a commitment to invest £4m in the Midlands Engine.
Sir John Peace, the Chair of the Midlands Engine, believes that, despite the fact that the Midlands economy has grown by 18% over the last five years, the Midlands economy is currently under-performing. Were it to achieve growth that matched the national average, the local economy could grow by a huge £54bn, from £207bn to £261bn. Achieving that growth is a key objective of the Strategy.
Midlands Engine recently published its ‘Vision for Growth’ in response to the Government’s Strategy, which sets out five key priorities for investment, aimed at addressing this under-performance and spurring on growth in the region. In summary:
- Midlands Connect
The Midlands Engine highlights the nexus between connectivity and growth. To improve connectivity in the region, Midlands Engine aims to maximise new technologies to deliver ‘a radical transformation’. The strategy revolves around:
- accelerating the delivery of HS2, which will create jobs, reduce congestion and improve journey times across the Midlands;
- securing funding for transport and a smart connectivity package, becoming a ‘testbed’ for innovation in transport; and
- maximising the potential of the Midlands’ two international airports, by innovating to boost capacity.
The Government has already committed £5bn to these investments and the Midlands is capitalising on emerging technology. For example, Coventry is one of the host cities for the trial of self-driving vehicles.
- Invest in Strategic Infrastructure
The Midlands Engine plans to invest in sustainable and advanced technologies in order to deliver the infrastructure required to meet future business and resident needs. The plans include, amongst others:
- investing in long-term energy security, to eradicate fuel poverty and support the Government’s aim to have the lowest energy costs in Europe;
- using HS2 as a catalyst for growth, helping to deliver the East Midlands HS2 Growth Strategy, thereby creating 74,000 jobs and adding £4bn GVA by 2042;
- the Curzon Masterplan (a new rail terminus in Birmingham city centre); and
- the UK Central Hub (a unique concentration of businesses and strategic economic assets in Solihull).
- Grow International Trade and Investment
Attracting foreign investment and growing new international markets are seen as key to creating jobs and growing the Midlands economy. The Midlands Engine is working to showcase the investment opportunities in the region through trade missions and representation at major international events, such as MIPIM.
Plans include expanding the Midlands Trade and Investment Programme and exploring the potential of creating an International Free Trade Zone within the region, which may help to prepare for the post-Brexit landscape and increase cross-border trade.
The Midlands Engine has applied for a £40m regional subvention fund, to attract large events and conferences to the region that relate to the regional strengths identified by their recent Science and Innovation Audit (SIA). These include industries such advanced manufacturing and engineering, digital technologies and data, and systems integration.
- Increase Innovation and Enterprise
The Midlands Engine plans to create an environment that encourages innovation by:
- working with the Government to develop its SIA investment programme, which identifies capabilities necessary in a globally competitive market, such as future food processing, medical technologies and transport innovation;
- creating a new Midlands Management and Leadership Institute, focused on building a “Midlands Mittelstand”, which promotes local SME businesses that prioritise workforce skills development and apprenticeships;
- securing National Initiatives, Sector Deals and Industrial Challenge Fund Investments, that link local strengths to national initiatives. For example a proposal for a ceramics deal focussed in north Staffordshire has been submitted; and
- progressing UK supply chain initiatives, through formulation and delivery of support programmes that encourage competitiveness and growth for local supply chain companies. This is key for the manufacturing sector, both regionally and nationally.
- Shape Great Places
Promoting the Midlands as a desirable place to live, visit, learn and work by:
- hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games and a GREAT Exhibition of the Commonwealth;
- securing strategic sectoral relocations to the region e.g. Channel 4, The Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre;
- supporting the European capital of culture and UK City of Culture bids; and
- unlocking housing growth, by enabling building of at least 600,000 new homes within 15 years.
Midlands Engine will also work with Visit England and Visit Britain to create and implement tactical visitor and destination marketing campaigns.
The Legal 500 has recently reported that the West Midlands has been left in a state of ‘quiet confidence’ following the Brexit vote and the apparent lack of negative economic impact on the region’s automotive industry. It cites the pro-Midlands policies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, as part of the reason for this, including the Strategy. The report goes on to state, however, that businesses are concerned about their future commercial dealings with Europe in a post-Brexit environment, which has led to an influx of queries to legal advisors, as to how they might best navigate these unchartered waters.
We are delighted to welcome Simon Hall, Director of Investment & Export for the Midlands Engine, as a panellist at our upcoming conference on Thursday 2 November 2017 at the ICC Birmingham, to help us explore these challenges. Follow this link for further details and to book your place.
 To read the full report please visit: Midlands Engine, The Midlands Engine Vision For Growth (Our Response to the Government’s Midlands Engine Strategy), September 2017 https://www.midlandsengine.org/
This post was written by Louise Gill and Amelia Villiers-Stuart. For further information, please contact:
Louise Gill, senior associate, Restructuring
T: 0121 234 0220