The Jewellery Quarter Industry Cluster - halting terminal decline and providing practical support to Birmingham’s original creative industry

In 2016 the researchers conducted a survey of thirty firms in the Jewellery Quarter Industry Cluster (JQ-IC), driven by planning considerations and commissioned by Thomas Fattorini Ltd. It aimed to ensure there was sufficient space in the Jewellery Quarter for start-ups, manufacturers and retailers, to forecast likely growth or contraction of the cluster and make other relevant policy recommendations in support of sustainable growth. The findings were presented to all partners in the Jewellery Quarter including the Jewellery Quarter Development Trust (JQDT).

In 2022 they commissioned this additional research in association with the Jewellery Quarter Cultural Action Zone.

A person punching holes into a metal sheet

Project Duration:

July-September 2022

Funder:

The research was commissioned by The Jewellery Quarter Development Trust (JQDT) and funded by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership.

Researchers:

Background to this research

In 2016 the researchers conducted a survey of thirty firms in the Jewellery Quarter Industry Cluster (JQ-IC), driven by planning considerations and commissioned by Thomas Fattorini Ltd. It aimed to ensure there was sufficient space in the Jewellery Quarter for start-ups, manufacturers and retailers, to forecast likely growth or contraction of the cluster and make other relevant policy recommendations in support of sustainable growth. The findings were presented to all partners in the Jewellery Quarter including the Jewellery Quarter Development Trust (JQDT).

In 2022 they commissioned this additional research in association with the Jewellery Quarter Cultural Action Zone.

Research objectives

This survey was commissioned to review how best to support further growth in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter Industry Cluster through the proposed development of a new hub. Data was collected from over 35 firms operating within this area to support the development, specifically, of a 'Creative Incubator and Hub', defined as “an organization designed to accelerate the growth and success of existing and entrepreneurial companies in JQ-IC through an array of business support resources and services that could include physical and virtual space, capital, coaching and skills development, common services provision, networking connections and promotion."

This survey built on the earlier survey conducted in 2016 and aimed to:

  1. Carry out deep-dive research to map the interconnected nature of the jewellery quarter industry cluster (JQ-IC) and the links between the companies involved. This will establish key connections, components, strengths and weaknesses in the value chain. We will look to establish any issues with skills gaps. The survey is intended to enable us to identify which parts of the cluster need strengthening whilst also identifying potential for growth, start-ups, relocation and promotion
  2. Conduct a detailed options appraisal, including consultation with relevant stakeholders, to establish the best model for a JQ Creative Incubator
  3. Conduct a fundraising options appraisal for the delivery of the recommended model(s)

Method

The survey was carried out online via Freeonline surveys, gaining a 7% response rate or 41 respondents from the 600 firms estimated to make up Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter Industry Cluster. It was supplemented by face-to-face online discussions with over 90% of respondents enabling a combination of quantitative and qualitative assessment of the cluster.

Main Findings

  1. The Creative Incubator and Hub was recognised as a vital resource to support wider business growth and competitiveness. It was recommended that it should be based at a physical location within the Jewellery Quarter effectively forming a flagship for the cluster with a focus on growth and competitiveness and linking together operators. However, this did not need to be a new-build and could be in an existing building. It should also extend into a dispersed network of activities in the Jewellery Quarter linking with other centres of excellences. As a priority it should provide practical skills development training for hand and bench skills and the coordination of apprenticeships opportunities suffering from acute shortages. It could also provide low-rent and access to funding opportunities for start-ups and spin outs to accelerate growth and employment.It should be constituted as a corporate entity enabling, as its priority focus, corporate leadership for the cluster and prioritising business interests by focussing on growth, governance and branding.
  2. Birmingham Property Services at Birmingham City Council have a role to play in assisting the continued integrity of the Jewellery Quarter Industry Cluster through the development of a coherent strategy targeting businesses in this cluster given the high levels renting from the City Council.
  3. Links to schools needed to be developed as they are currently weak. Positive initial discussions are taking place with Aston University Engineering Academy School and it is hoped these can be translated into actions that facilitate a flow of young talent into the sector.
  4. Links to Colleges, FEI, HEI and Trade Associations would be important in enabling further business support through, for example STEAMhouse incubation and acceleration support, Goldsmiths’ Centre and other college support with apprenticeship provision, workshops, specialist training and short courses. In turn this should lead to further linkages through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, practical research and development, as well as student internships and placements. For these students, progression opportunities should also be well sign-posted into further courses at all levels of advancement.
  5. Funding should be raised from within the Jewellery Quarter Industry Cluster firms to drive a shared and business-led focus in developing the Creative Incubator and Hub. This would not be focussed on capital funding but rather revenue funding to support skills training in the first instance.

The survey results and recommendations have been presented to the JQDT board. Next stage developments include the creation of a Task Force to look at steps to practical implementation.

Additional links:

Jewellery Quarter Development Trust: jewelleryquarter.net
Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership: gbslep.co.uk

Researchers:
Associate Professor, Beverley Nielsen: beverley.nielsen@bcu.ac.uk
Dr Steven McCabe: steve.mccabe@bcu.ac.uk
Greg Fattorini, MD