Director’s Diary – Driving growth in our region

Singaporean delegation hears from University of Warwick representatives

Director's Diary - May 2024

In this blog MI Director, Helen Turner, discusses some of the key the initiatives that MI is driving, as well as the opportunities to showcase the support MI and its partners provide to businesses and growth in the Midlands.

May has come and gone in a flash, but the impact of the work that the MI Team and our partnership is delivering will bear fruit for a long time to come.

In May there has been a growth focus to our work. We hosted a visit of Professor Julia Sutcliffe, the Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department for Business and Trade (DBT), and her civil service colleagues to the region. This visit provided the opportunity to introduce them to MI partners and a range of stakeholders from across the region to learn about some of the opportunities and challenges we face here.  

We were able to introduce the DBT delegation to senior leaders from the East Midlands Combined County Authority, the East Midlands Freeport, and Midlands Mindforge – the patient capital investment vehicle established by MI partners to drive investment into our spinout portfolio and other IP rich businesses in the region. 

The visit highlighted the importance of universities in supporting businesses in the region and showcased the breadth of work that universities undertake to drive economic growth.

We were delighted that following this successful visit, Professor Sutcliffe played a leading role in helping to announce that through the Universities as Drivers of Trade and Investment pilot, we are launching a new £3m campaign to attract global R&D investment and drive economic growth.

The announcement of the Invest in UK University R&D – Midlands Campaign, which involves 17 universities across the Midlands and the Midlands Engine, was made in front of a packed audience at the Midlands Reception at UKREiiF. The UK Real Estate, Infrastructure and Investment Forum (UKREIIF) attracts around 13,000 investors, delegates and developers to the UK each May. Read more about this announcement here.

While representing MI at UKREiiF, I was invited to speak on various panel sessions and participate in numerous roundtables, including; unlocking global investment potential of UK universities to support local growth, the future of regions in a new era of English devolution and twinning 4.0. In my role representing MI on the Midlands Engine Partnership Board, I was also delighted to attend the Midlands Investment Reception, hosted by the Midlands Engine, where Midlands Mindforge CEO, Dr Lisa Smith, talked about the importance of Mindforge in unlocking greater investment potential of the region’s future high growth businesses. Lisa will also be speaking at the annual Midlands Engine Economic Summit, being hosted in Birmingham on 10th June, which I am looking forward to participating in.

One of the target markets from the Universities as Drivers of Trade and Investment pilot is Singapore. Recently, MI had the pleasure of hosting a Singaporean delegation visit to the West Midlands as part of their wider visit to the UK.


Professor Martin Freer shows the Singaporean delegation Tyseley Energy Campus

Professor Martin Freer of the University of Birmingham provides a tour to the Singaporean delegation of the Tyseley Energy Campus

The delegation were greeted by Professor Caroline Meyer and Professor Leon Terry on behalf of the Midlands Innovation Executive Management Group. During their visit they saw the National Automotive Innovation Centre and the International Manufacturing Centre at the University of Warwick, before having a tour of the University of Birmingham’s Tyseley Energy Campus.

We were also able to arrange focused discussions with representatives of Midlands Innovation, the Midlands Engine and other university partners who we are working with on our innovative, nationally-leading foreign direct investment pilot campaign.

Also in May, we supported the launch of the Campaign for Science and Engineering and LifeArc’s report on Backing Business R&D which provides both short and long term recommendations of how to incentivise continued investment in UK innovation. Having participated in one of several roundtable discussions with key stakeholders in the formulation of the report, I am thrilled there is a specific recommendation advising that UK regions should have the freedom to make decisions about local innovation programmes and supporting regions to market their strengths and capabilities to attract inward investment.

It was a pleasure to join colleagues from University of Warwick, who lead on the delivery of Midlands ICURe, and from Midlands Mindforge at a discussion with the InnovateUK ICURe Team on the future opportunities of the programme and how we grow innovative businesses in our region.

ICURe is designed to help explore the commercial application and potential of UK research, providing funding of up to £35K for UK researchers to validate their business ideas.

Since ICURe’s launch in the region, Midlands ICURe has supported 114 teams, created 285 jobs, secured over £68m of private investment and helped academic teams to commercialise their innovation.

In May, MI’s Deputy Director also arranged successful conferences for our Inclusive Transformation research leads and the MI Space Group.

The Inclusive Transformation delegates met to discuss how the programme can be scaled to help revive communities across the Midlands. Read more here and the MI’s Space Group shared insights into how they are utilising advanced data analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to unlock the full potential of space data outputs for a range of sectors and applications. Read more here

Published 6 June 2024



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