The tables were set at the ideally situated Opus restaurant in Birmingham and the room was filling up with those leading the way in the region’s aerospace industry.
The event is the West Midlands Growth Company’s aerospace sector dinner, in association with Midlands Aerospace Alliance (MAA), and the chance to not only celebrate the region’s capabilities but an opportunity to harvest expert insight on how we can capitalise on investment opportunities presented by the next generation of technologies.
In attendance were key representatives from some of the West Midlands industrial big-hitters such as Rolls-Royce Control Systems, Moog, Collins and SME AE Aerospace, as well as innovation centres at the Universities of Birmingham and Coventry, and the Manufacturing Technology Centre. As the night progressed, we began to get a balanced view of where we need to invest more as a region, and what industry would like to see from a transport and skills strategy.
So what were the key takeaways from the event?
- Businesses felt that a more integrated transport policy, as outlined by the Mayor’s Movement for Growth plan, would help the industry to attract and retain staff as commuting costs decrease and employers become more accessible from residential areas. Awareness of this plan among businesses could be improved, however.
- The region already has a strong base of manufacturing skills, and benefits from a cluster of aerospace companies as this helps to retain skills in a concentrated area.
- However, future skills provision is critical. It was felt that a future focus would be needed in developing skills around Design for Manufacture, Digital and Creativity. Clearly, the aerospace engineer of the future is likely to need a more rounded skill-set and capabilities in coding and IT will complement more traditional engineering skills.
- Coventry University, the Manufacturing Technology Centre and the University of Birmingham explained the benefits of focusing on key specialisms, with electrification and battery technology, as well as additive manufacturing, being key in the West Midlands
- The aerospace sector has a huge opportunity to collaborate in the best developments from other industries, and the MAA will play a role in coordinating this.
- More work remains to be done on mapping out and articulating the region’s offering and specialisms in the areas of digitalisation in manufacturing, and support for industry R&D.
The platform of a sector dinner allows all involved to have a voice; and leading professional services firms and WMGC commercial partners, KPMG and Eversheds, were able to share political and macro-economic trends with representation from the strong Wolverhampton aerospace cluster giving the view of the supply chain. As a result of being part of the evening’s discussion, the Black Country Consortium can use some of this insight to help inform the regional aerospace sector plan, part of the West Midlands’ Local Industrial Strategy, in which they are taking the lead.
To conclude, the group agreed that the West Midlands Growth Company has a key role to play in helping the region promote itself, to really ‘take-off’ if you like (every pun intended) by highlighting the precision manufacturing, creativity and skills base in the region. If you would like to know more about our sector-specific dinners and support services, please click here.