The Midlander 21 - March 2019

Curzon Street HS2 Station artist impression

Prime minister response to HS2 open letter

Prime Minister Theresa May has reaffirmed the government’s commitment to delivering the whole of HS2 Phase Two.

This is in response to a landmark letter from leaders in the Midlands and the North, calling for assurances that the UK’s first intercity high speed railway will be completed in its entirety.

In January, more than 40 prominent figures signed an open letter urging party leaders to offer their unwavering support to the project, explaining that it is the only way to ensure the country benefits fully from a once-in-a-generation opportunity to drive regional economic growth and rebalance the economy.

In her written response to Midlands Connect and Midlands Engine chairman, Sir John Peace, the Prime Minister said: "I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that the Government remains committed to delivering the whole of HS2 Phase 2 and will continue to work closely with you to ensure that the project meets your aspirations for growth and regeneration. Find out more

Exports growth in East Midlands is the highest of the UK regions

The number of VAT-registered businesses exporting goods across the UK has increased to 110,800, an increase of over 1,000 since this time last year.

Published by HMRC, the figures also reveal that in 2018 exports of goods from England increased by 2.1% to £248.6 billion.

Businesses report seeing an increased appetite for UK goods from non-EU countries, with the number exporting to these countries in the last quarter rising by 1.3% to 49,900.

The most popular non-EU destination was the USA, where 20.2% of exporters sold goods to, Australia (7.7%) and Switzerland (7.6%).

When comparing 2018 to the previous year, the strongest growth in goods exports within the UK regions came from the East Midlands, which saw the greatest rise in the value of exports (up 7.9%). Find out more

Image courtesy of the West Midlands Growth Company

West Midlands has most award winning venues of any region in national attraction awards

Sixteen West Midlands venues have been recognised in VisitEngland’s 2018 Attractions Accolades.

The national tourism body’s annual awards have honoured the attractions based on the score they obtained following their Visitor Attraction Quality Scheme assessment, and as a result of the outstanding visitor experiences they provide – from customer service to the food on offer.

Winning venues in the West Midlands include; Aston Hall, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, British Motor Museum, Cadbury World, Sarehole Mill, The Coffin Works, Thinktank, Winterbourne House & Garden.

The visitor economy in the West Midlands continues to perform strongly. The region attracted 2.3 million international visits in 2017 - its fifth consecutive year of record-breaking growth and the second highest growth of all English regions, and it also attracted 85.7 million day visits in 2017 - up 4.1% compared with the previous year. Find out more

Team Midlands - there is still time to sign up

In last month's newsletter we announced the arrival of Team Midlands - a new initiative to help build momentum and unity behind the region’s growth ambitions and to help drive inward investment.

The partnership is seeking expressions of interest from companies and organisations who all share a passion for making the Midlands a thriving and vibrant economy. Find out more

Midlands Engine Chairman Sir John Peace said: “We want to build advocacy so that the Midlands economy is greater than the sum of its parts. We want to show that the Midlands is connected and energised. We want to champion some of the innovative work that is going on to improve connectivity, drive up skills and deliver job opportunities." Sign up to join Team Midlands here

Sir John speaking at the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce event

Sir John sets out bold future for the East Midlands at Chambers' annual dinner

“There are plenty of reasons for everyone here in the East Midlands to be feeling upbeat and positive about the future”.

This was the message from Sir John Peace, Midlands Engine Chairman, to some 200 business leaders at the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner.

In his speech, Sir John set out how the ‘growth clusters’ around HS2 will provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drive economic growth and social transformation across the Midlands.

He reiterated the planned benefits arising from the wider developments around the HS2 Toton site: 74,000 jobs, 20,000 homes and a £4 billion economic uplift. But the benefits, said Sir John, will spread far beyond the Toton site – including Chesterfield and the Peak District - as HS2 opens up regeneration opportunities and creates new gateways across the region.

“The plans are in place. The time is right and the potential return is clear”, said Sir John. “We were the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Now we have the chance to be at the centre of this Infrastructure and Growth Revolution.” Find out more

More than 80 SMEs helped so far by new £370m Midlands fund

The first milestone has been reached by the Barclays Growth Fund after supporting investment of £50 million in Midlands businesses, a year after it was launched.

The fund was established to support small and medium-sized businesses across the East and West Midlands to boost jobs and economic growth and followed on from the £250m Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF).

So far the fund has offered support to more than 80 businesses ranging from a variety of sectors and geographical locations across the region.

Sir John Peace, said: "This commitment from Barclays has already helped a number of Midlands businesses to grow, and I would urge other companies who are considering their growth plans, to look at the support that is available to them. Find out more

Image courtesy of the University of Lincoln 

Lincoln to launch world's first Agri-Food Robotics research centre

A new advanced training centre will create the largest ever cohort of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) specialists for the global food and farming sectors, thanks to a £6.6m funding award.

The world's first Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) for agri-food robotics is being established by the University of Lincoln.

The centre will provide funding and training specialised in areas such as the harvesting of agricultural crops, autonomous mobility in challenging environments, soft robotics for handling delicate food products, and ‘co-bots' for maintaining safe human-robot collaboration and interaction in farms and factories. Find out more

Investment Champions network launch

The Department for International Trade has this month launched the Midlands Engine Investment Champions Network.

The aim is to recruit a group of successful inward investors who would be willing to share a small amount of their time to help attract new inward investors to the Midlands. These will be business leaders who are able to offer experience that covers a range of sectors, company sizes and markets.

Sir John Peace, said: "We know that business professionals set great store by peer-to-peer support, so we have developed a network of Investment Champions to act as advocates for ‘Why invest in the Midlands region.’ This is a first for this initiative in the UK regions and the Midlands is leading the way.

"This network will enable more potential investors to hear what the Midlands region has to offer to facilitate their business to both establish and flourish." Find out more

(l-r) Vice-Chancellor Professor Eunice Simmons welcomes Chris Skidmore MP 
Image courtesy of Nottingham Trent University

Minister announces Nottingham Trent University to co-lead national higher education social mobility centre

On a visit to Nottingham Trent University (NTU), Chris Skidmore MP, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, announced the University would co-lead a national centre to develop ways higher education can improve social mobility.

Mr Skidmore said that NTU was genuinely leading the way in delivering equality of opportunities for students, and had earned a national reputation for innovation and quality in advancing the social mobility agenda. Find out more

The news comes as Nottingham Trent University received £9.7 million funding from the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership to support the creation of £23 million Medical Technologies Innovation Facility (MTIF).

The centre will see experts working with industry to create new health devices and advanced materials for medical use. It is estimated the MTIF Centre could create nearly 1000 jobs and add £50 million of GVA (Gross Value Added) to the local economy within ten years. Find out more

New course to address Midlands aviation skills gap  

Telford College is launching a series of new courses to meet an urgent need for skilled engineers in the aviation industry.

The programmes, which are due to begin in September, will run with the backing of the Aviation Skills Partnership (ASP), which has links with major airlines.

The courses are intended to be the forerunner for the creation of a fully-fledged Shropshire-based ‘aviation academy’ which will supply skilled staff to the world’s leading military and commercial airlines.

Fiona Piercy, Midlands Engine Programme Director, said: "We are pleased to be working with ASP to support the development of the Midlands Aviation Academies and provide the industry with the skilled workforce it needs to help drive economic growth through increased international trade and tourism." Find out more

More regional highlights

  • Toyota to build new model for Suzuki at Burnaston. Read more
  • Largest skills event ever held in Worcestershire. Read more 
  • Proposed Leicestershire logistics hub could create thousands of jobs. Read more 
  • Coventry University to research security of autonomous vehicles. Read more 
  • US car suspension technology firm increases Leicestershire site. Read more 
  • Two Lincolnshire businesses receive £1.95m MEIF investment funding. Read more 
  • National awards shortlisting for University of Wolverhampton’s Science Centre. Read more 
  • Derby's Bombardier to create 300 jobs. Read more 
  • Radical transformation plans for Birmingham's Moor Street Station unveiled. Read more 
  • Nottingham named second-best place in UK to start a business. Read more 
  • Big banks back West Midlands Apprenticeship Fund. Read more 
  • New board members appointed to D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership. Read more
  • British Business Investments commits £20m to Leicestershire’s ThinCats. Read more
  • Approval tipped for £300m Boots Island scheme. Read more  
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