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MI Chair reflects on the partnership overcoming the challenges of 2020 through greater collaboration

I am delighted with the progress of the partnership this year. This is especially significant set against the backdrop of an international pandemic which has required planned projects, programmes and events, to all be quickly adapted.

I would like to start by thanking all across the partnership who have worked so hard over the course of the year.  Our achievements wouldn’t have been possible without their dedication, determination and, most importantly, their collaboration.

First and foremost, our partnership acted swiftly to support local, regional and national efforts to tackle COVID-19 in a range of ways – be that through producing hand sanitiser and donating PPE in the very first days of the pandemic, supporting medical and nursing students to graduate early into the NHS, or freeing up staff from Medical School academic duties to concentrate on NHS clinical care. We have provided expert business advice to help companies diversify and adapt, as well as undertaking a tremendous amount of research addressing the many different issues that the pandemic has thrown up. We have also provided economic analysis to both the Midlands Engine and West Midlands Mayor’s COVID Taskforce through the West Midlands REDI Team.

With the tremendous challenges that the year has posed, the collaborative nature of our partnership has come to the fore, and, in some cases, the challenges we have faced have driven us to innovate at a speed and scale that would not have been expected prior to the pandemic.

 Our achievements in 2020 are too many to mention in this blog, but I want to reflect here on some of the key achievements.

We commenced the largest career development programme for technicians in the Higher Education sector.  The MI TALENT programme, with the backing of Research England, aims to deliver an academic blueprint for the development of the sector’s 30,000 strong technical community. Our technicians are not only a critical part of the delivery of teaching and research, but they are also a scarce resource.  Addressing the skills shortage and numbers of highly trained technicians is essential to the delivery of the Government’s aim of significantly increasing R&D funding and its aspirations to become a global scientific powerhouse. As part of the programme, we will deliver the country’s first HE and Research technician-focused Policy Commission, which is expected to report its finding in late 2021.

This year our Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) – which is the UK’s largest green energy research partnership – demonstrated that in year four (of a five-year programme) it has already delivered its original objectives. It has also put a compelling case forward, backed by businesses, LEPs, MPs and Local Authorities in the region, that, with further investment, it can help to deliver levelling-up in the region by creating nearly 7,000 jobs and delivering £1.5B GVA to the regional and national economy. With the UK hosting COP26, and the country’s aspirations to reach net-zero by 2050, 2021 is already shaping up to be quite a year for ERA.

Professor Alec Cameron, Vice-Chancellor of Aston University and Chairman of the Midlands Innovation Board