Director’s Diary – collaboration is key

Regular readers of the MI newsletter will have read about the Universities as Drivers of Trade and Investment pilot that we are undertaking alongside, the Midlands Engine and Midlands Enterprise Universities.

It was fantastic to be able to showcase some of the insights from this work at the Praxis Auril Annual Conference. Alex Favier, Universities as Drivers of Trade and Investment Programme Director, explained why Foreign Direct Investment should matter to universities. He highlighted that 56% of industrial research income reported by universities in the country in the period 2015-22 was from overseas and counted as FDI. It was great to be able to Chair the session which included a panel discussion highlighting some of the great practice in the Midlands. Our panel included contributions from Joe Marshall, CEO of NCUB who we have been collaborating on this pilot with.

 It was great to be invited by the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, to attend the West Midlands Combined Authority and Innovate UK Local Action Plan Launch. The plan sets out a strategic vision of how the region’s innovation ecosystem aligns with both the Innovate UK Action Plan and the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Plan for Growth. It was fantastic to hear the Mayor praise the contribution of MI partners and highlight Midlands Mindforge as part of his speech.

I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to provide a presentation to the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Innovation Board on Midlands Mindforge – an ambitious patient capital investment company co-founded by the eight MI partners.

Midlands Mindforge will be the largest provider of potential capital for spinouts from our universities and other IP rich early-stage businesses in the Midlands region. It will accelerate and enhance the commercialisation of ground-breaking science and technology innovations.

Innovation was also the focus of a panel session I was asked to Chair at the Inaugural Midlands Economic Summit in Birmingham recently. It was the biggest gathering of business leaders, senior policymakers and parliamentarians from across the Midlands. Insights from the summit are available to download here. I was able to highlight the power of collaboration in the session I Chaired. 

Collaboration was also a key point I was able to make as part of a hybrid event hosted by CityRedi. Focused on Boosting and Measuring Regional Innovation and Pan-University Partnerships, I was invited to participate alongside an Economic Adviser for the Department of Science, Innovation, and Technology. You can watch a recording of the session here.

The West Midlands is one of only three areas to be given a share of £100m to accelerate innovation. I recently participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by CityRedi to discuss the experience of the three regions in establishing their Innovation Accelerator (IA) projects and the impacts of these pilots in enabling place-based growth.

MI partners are playing a key role in the projects chosen to be part of the West Midlands IA, read more here.

The Midlands Engine Partnership Board was recently hosted by MI partner the University of Nottingham. The Midlands Engine is the Government-backed pan-regional growth partnership. During the meeting the Partnership Board discussed the work of the Midlands Engine Green Growth Board Chaired by Professor Martin Freer, Director of MI’s Energy Research Accelerator.

We have also supported the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub to host a round table discussion on engineering and technology enterprise growth and research commercialisation in the Midlands. The discussion, which took place at the Manufacturing Technology Centre, brought together experts and stakeholders from academia, industry, and the region to discuss the challenges and opportunities that exist in the region’s engineering enterprise ecosystem. 

The opportunities of innovation and city growth was the topic of discussion at a recent ARUP event I was invited to participate in. The event brought together senior civil servants, city officials, leaders of innovation districts, and investors to explore how a successful knowledge economy will be driven by the creation and commercialisation of innovation

Alongside businesses in Leicester and Leicestershire, MI Health’s Programme Manager, Alex Archibald, was invited to hear from Pat McFadden, Shadow Treasury Minister and MP for Wolverhampton, who spoke to businesses about Labour’s economic plans on a visit arranged by Liz Kendall, MP for Leicester West.

It has certainly been an exciting and fast-paced few months for myself and the Midlands Innovation Team, and we are already eager to deliver the opportunities that are taking shape for the autumn. I would like to sign-off this blog by thanking partners and collaborators for trusting MI to deliver. When I reflect on our achievements over the last few months, MI’s motto remains at the forefront of my mind – Together we really are stronger.



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