Advantage West Midlands
Innovation in Architecture ? Selfridges, Birmingham
The Region that brought the world the jet engine, steam power, developed the technology to build a skyscraper, created cotton wool and invented baking powder is investing in new thinking that is growing tomorrow?s smarter business.
A rich culture of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurialism is central to the heritage of the West Midlands Region and vital to its future prosperity. The West Midlands Region is actively fostering this culture and innovating to make it happen. And it?s working. The third UK Community Innovation Survey conducted by the DTi cited the West Midlands as the most innovation active Region in the UK. For companies who want to innovate and improve their business processes from manufacture to management, the West Midlands Region is truly at the heart of it all.
Advantage West Midlands (AWM), the regional development agency for the West Midlands, is working to support the ability of the Region to exploit new ideas and technologies. John Edwards, Chief Executive of Advantage West Midlands, is clear about the challenge. ?We are building on the innovative potential of companies in the Region, helping them to exploit research and development.
We are promoting creative talent in all fields and supporting projects which develop all aspects of an innovative and market-led culture?. The Agency sees working with partners across the West Midlands as central to a sustainable innovation culture. ?We have excellent, business-oriented universities, an established innovation infrastructure and a very active network of professional advisors. Of course we have a world-beating track record of translating knowledge into successful products. But the West Midlands history of innovation does not end with the industrial revolution.
We are world leaders in technology transfer and the development of key future technologies. This work is happening at all levels in the regional economy?. Richard Riley is director of Contact Knowledge Exchange, specialising in precision matching the research and development needs of West Midlands SME businesses to the wealth of expertise within the Region?s Universities. ?It?s not always easy for a company to know where to go with a development opportunity or information need ? especially in a Region with such rich academic resources.? The West Midlands counts no less than 13 Higher Education institutions within its borders offering a world-class science base and centres of excellence in everything from automotive design to agriculture.
?Our service makes the latest academic thinking immediately available to business and ensures that exactly the right kind of expert is introduced to the project.? Recent successes include matching specialist air-flow modelling software expertise at Wolverhampton University to new product development being undertaken at Midtherm; helping local firm Flowonics to develop new composite materials technology in collaboration with the Polymer Cluster Group and Wolverhampton, Warwick and Coventry Universities and even improving the manufacturing process for biodegradable organic confetti made from hopflowers in a link up between Herefordshire?s Hopmania and Harper Adams University College.
Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) has an international reputation for driving innovation, new technology development and management skills within manufacturing organisations.
Part of the leafy University of Warwick, the Group offers a cluster of expertise which is second to none, evidenced by the long list of SMEs, multinationals, governments and public sector bodies worldwide that are their clients and collaborators. A key partner to over 500 companies on five continents including Land Rover, BAE Systems, AstraZeneca, Westbury Homes and Rolls Royce, and hundreds of SMEs manufacturing everything from car components to bird boxes, Warwick Manufacturing Group takes future focused expertise from the traditional heartland of manufacturing out to the wider world.
The West Midlands Region ? at the heart of the UK network
UK Science Minister Lord Sainsbury recently stated that the Group ?has developed a worldclass international reputation for facilitating collaboration between industry and universities. They have helped drive UK innovation, through development of products and manufacturing processes, by pioneering an international model for working with industry?. This pioneering spirit is central to the renaissance and continued success of the innovative, creative and entrepreneurial ethos within the Region.
Future innovation priorities for the West Midlands include the creation of premises and equipment ? the facilities to attract the best talent in the world to research and development roles in the Region. Advantage West Midlands has invested in the creation of a unique Aseptic Unit at Aston University. Keele University IC4 Innovation Centres have been specifically designed for high-technology innovation and enterprise ? biotechnology incubators comprise the greater part of this facility and complement the University?s expertise in biomedical and cellular engineering. The Jewellery Industry Innovation Centre at the University of Central England in Birmingham builds on the city?s world famous expertise in jewellery and horology by pushing forward expertise in materials, design and crucially, business process. John Edwards comments that, ?While knowledge creation is clearly the foundation of a successful innovation culture, knowledge transfer and exploitation is its expression.
Homage to a Great Innovator ? the Frank Whittle Arch in Coventry
That?s why we are investing not only in ?hard? resources of bricks and mortar and specialised equipment, but in developing creativity, future focused thinking and strategy development in the Region?s business base.? ?Spinner? is one of several schemes designed to deliver these priorities. Spinner offers small pathfinder grants which allow companies and universities to patent, prototype new products and create business plans for their ideas. Accelerator grants are also available to help fl edgling companies access MD expertise and finance.
The West Midlands Region is a world-class location for research and development ? ensuring that the world recognises this plays a central role in the innovation strategy for the Region. ?We have traditionally been regarded as a manufacturing base for heavy industry,? states John Edwards, ?but that is changing. We are now a world centre for design, research and development in manufacturing of all kinds, including automotive. But we are also leading the field in new and emerging disciplines, including serious games. We are fostering a cluster of new media companies offering expertise in creating both content and delivery platforms for the digital age. Developments such as these mean we are a Region with one foot in the future and worth watching to see what we can come up with next!?
The surprising West Midlands Region is clearly making the case for innovation. Perhaps we can only guess at what this complex culture of talent, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurialism will bring us in this new century. Whatever these new developments may be, we can be sure they will be as life-changing and elemental as the discovery of oxygen, the creation of modern currency mints, the invention of the postage stamp, the publication of the first dictionary or the development of the theory of evolution ? all invented in the West Midlands Region.
The West Midlands Region ? at the heart of it all.
Discover more at www.westmidlandsregion.co.uk.