West Midlands Universities come together to address the UK’s future challenges image
  • Six West Midlands universities are creating real-world solutions to the UK’s grand challenges
  • New paper showcases the impact of the universities on key sectors within the West Midlands

Six West Midlands universities have released a paper that demonstrates how they are helping the region to address global economic challenges.

The Government’s UK Industrial Strategy has set out four grand challenges, which will create economic, technological and societal change across the global economy for years to come. These challenges are AI and data; an ageing society; clean growth; and future mobility.

The Universities of the West Midlands have been working closely with industry and the public sector to develop a Local Industrial Strategy (LIS), which will provide a regional response to the UK’s grand challenges.

The Universities of the West Midlands comprise Aston University, Coventry University, Birmingham City University, University of Birmingham, University of Warwick and University of Wolverhampton. The paper outlines how their collective expertise is able to address all four grand challenges, and provides the West Midlands with the unique ability to accelerate these scientific and technological innovations. Universities in the West Midlands already contribute £2.9 billon GVA to the region, according to Universities UK*.

The universities are using their specialisms in a range of key sectors, and their close relationships with industry partners, to create new solutions to the grand challenges. Building on the West Midlands’ strengths in advanced manufacturing and automotive, the University of Warwick is addressing the challenge of future mobility through Warwick Manufacturing Group’s (WMG) vehicle electrification project.

The future of clean growth – through new energy sources and efficiencies – is being addressed by Aston University’s Europe Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI), which develops alternative waste disposal methods to create biofuel for future cars and large buildings. Furthermore, the Birmingham Energy Institute brings together more than 200 academics from the University of Birmingham to contribute vital knowledge to the energy sector and the University of Birmingham has invested in the Tyseley Energy Park which will shape the way the city and region develops infrastructure for renewable heat and power, energy storage and clean transport fuels in combination with advanced waste processing.

Coventry University’s MATUROLIFE project uses AI and data to address the ageing society challenge, the project that involves 20 global partners to create urban living solutions for older people using assistive technology.

AI and data development is also being harnessed by Birmingham City University’s augmented reality research, which will enable future surgeons to train in a safe and realistic augmented environment. The Wolverhampton Cyber Research Institute, at the University of Wolverhampton, is developing cyber security systems to protect devices from outside threats.

Deborah Cadman, CEO of the West Midlands Combined Authority, said:

“The West Midlands is the first region to work with the UK Government to develop a Local Industrial Strategy and the region’s universities are at the forefront of the vital link between innovation and industry.

“Their research and development reaches far beyond the laboratory and lecture theatres. By driving the local economy and improving everyone’s lives, they are already addressing the UK’s future challenges.

“The West Midlands is perfectly placed to address the UK’s grand challenges – in addition to the bold thinking from our universities, we are also home to global businesses that are developing highly creative and ambitious ideas for how people will live, and work, in the future. Initiatives such as the region’s multi-city 5G test bed pilot will also further support innovation in the West Midlands. 

This paper highlights the versatility of the region’s universities and demonstrates that through collaboration we can remedy future societal challenges.”

To view the paper, click here.

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