As we optimistically welcomed the dawn of a new decade on January 1st this year, no-one could have foreseen the unprecedented challenges that would emerge to cement 2020’s place in the history books.
Coronavirus has rapidly altered life as we know it; in business especially, where many organisations are continuing to adapt to the unfolding impacts of the virus.
On a personal note, amid the prevailing economic challenges, a promising new venture has begun for me. I’m pleased to have joined the West Midlands Growth Company (WMGC) as Chief Investment Officer, where I will lead the region’s global inward investment efforts at a critical point in time.
Formerly part of MIDAS – Manchester’s strategic investment agency, I’m looking forward to bringing a fresh perspective to unlocking the region’s investment potential.
What has struck me about the West Midlands from my first two months in post is its overwhelming sense of resilience and ingenuity in the face of adversity – an ethos that is plain to see in this year’s investment performance.
July saw the West Midlands crowned the UK’s leading location for attracting Foreign Direct Investment outside London and the South East for a fifth year in a row, with global industry leaders such as Microland – India’s leading digital IT transformation company – joining our influential portfolio of foreign investors.
A new West Midlands India Partnership was also established to build on this corridor of investment between the region and India. The Partnership’s five-year programme of activity will draw on the region’s existing industrial and cultural links with India to develop mutual opportunities for economic growth. We are looking forward to progressing our ambitions throughout 2021, in the context of wider discussions around the UK’s post-Brexit trade relationships.
Additionally, the region secured national recognition for its emerging expertise in Data Driven Healthcare Technologies and Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) Modelling through the Department for International Trade’s (DIT) High Potential Opportunities (HPO) programme, solidifying our legacy for cutting-edge innovation.
The impact of the pandemic has sharpened the critical role of innovative, data-driven healthcare and transport systems. I’m looking forward to translating the potential of these clusters into investment gains in partnership with Government colleagues.
Birmingham’s status as a global hub for Financial & Professional Services has been elevated exponentially this year following a raft of new firms moving and expanding into the city. Completions on the Paradise development have seen PwC open its new regional HQ at One Chamberlain Square, additionally anchoring investment from DLA Piper, Knights, and Mazars onsite.
Last week, the West Midlands’ standing at the frontier of clean technologies was brought into focus following Government’s new vision for a Green Industrial Revolution.
In our corporate response to this Plan, we outlined our determination to ensure the region’s increasingly vital role in progressing the UK’s net-zero targets is realised, along with the investment opportunities this will create in areas such as electric vehicles.
Focusing on more gearshift propositions of this nature, we will continue to raise the profile of our unique offer to investors. Across the business in its entirety, we’re paying considerable attention to maximising the remarkable opportunities we will be afforded by milestones like the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
But we are conscious that our mission is a collective one. As well as working closely with DIT and the Government’s new Office for Investment, we are keen to continue collaborating with public and private partners on the ground to discover new opportunities to support one another.
While 2020 has been enormously challenging or both our society and our economy, it has also created a momentum of change. From what I’ve seen so-far, the West Midlands has the resilience and ingenuity to harness this momentum to further accelerate the future prosperity of the region.