With a wave of Far Eastern interest in the region’s manufacturing sector in recent years – with Dynex Power the latest Chinese company to invest in the West Midlands – our Regional Observatory studies the opportunities that China brings.

In 2018, the Regional Observatory commissioned research to inform its inward investment strategy, which identifies:

  • The key areas of global market growth in terms of sectors and source markets and investors’ specific requirements
  • Those source markets and sectors where the strengths and assets of our location most closely match these requirements 
  • Where our strengths and assets are strong enough to give us a competitive advantage over competitor destinations

Over the last few years China has emerged as a key source market for investment into the region. Between 2011/12 and 2017/18 more than 50 inward investment projects were attracted to the region, creating nearly 3,000 new jobs – and China is now our fourth largest market for FDI behind the USA, Germany and India. Major investors have included CAD CAM Automotive, the London Taxi Company, Detroit Electric, Vax and the Changan Automotive Group.

Dynex Power is the latest Chinese company to invest in the West Midlands. Part of Chinese, state-owned CRRC Group, the company is investing in a new innovation centre in Solihull to develop chips for use in the huge electric car market in China and internationally.

Going forward we will seek to showcase the region’s key competitive strengths in this market, such as our competitive cost base, strong talent pool, extensive supplier base and unrivalled university research & development expertise. A key priority will be to build a strong pipeline of potential investment opportunities, exploiting the intelligence we have gathered and the links and networks we and our partners and stakeholders have established. For example:

During 2019 there are opportunities to participate in a number of trade missions organised by the Department for International Trade and to attend trade shows focused on a number of our target sectors

  • There is an opportunity to capitalise on civic links between Birmingham, Sandwell, Wolverhampton and Coventry and various Chinese cities
  • The University of Birmingham has offices in Shanghai and Guangzhou, Birmingham City University also has an office in Shanghai, and Aston University, Coventry University, the University of Warwick and the University of Wolverhampton all have student exchange programmes, educational partnerships and other collaborations in China  
  • There is an opportunity to leverage the links established by the West Midlands Growth Company and the region’s local authorities with the Chinese owners of a number of the region’s football clubs - for example Wolverhampton Wanderers are owned by Shanghai based Fosun, Aston Villa are part-owned by the Beijing based Recon Group, West Bromwich Albion are owned by Shanghai based Yunyi Guoka Sports Development and Birmingham City are owned by Hong Kong based Trillion Trophy Asia

China is also a key source market for overseas tourists, with 26,000 visits to the region in 2017 – up by 40% over the last five years. A significant proportion of visitors are attending business conferences and meetings in the region – and they can play a key role in raising the profile of the West Midlands as a business and investment location. 

Encouragingly our research to support the development of a regional tourism strategy indicates that many Chinese visitors have positive perceptions, with 57% agreeing that the region is diverse, young and vibrant, 56% agreeing that it is a creative and innovative place and 54% agreeing that it would be a great place to live and work.   

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