Birmingham the second best region for UK exports


The West Midlands is bucking the gloomy economic trend with its regional firms successfully applying innovative design to create a “remarkable” renaissance, a special report has revealed.

IDEA Birmingham – Birmingham City University’s business think tank - has launched a report at the Conservative Party Conference on the crucial role that innovation and design is playing in stimulating growth and economic recovery.

The report - published at the Birmingham City University conference fringe event (Tuesday, October 9 2012) and titled ‘Looking for Growth - Sack the Economists, Hire a Midlands Designer’ - highlights the contribution of local brand-led businesses to the modern economy and calls for more support and recognition for the work that is being done.

Research conducted by IDEA Birmingham has found that:

  • 87% of Midlands firms can attribute their success to design and innovation and think it is the region’s unique identifier
  • Over £3bn has been earmarked for investment in product design in key Midlands firms
  • The companies who invest the most in the design are growing the fastest, exporting more and taking on more people, despite the difficult economic environment
  • 96% want to see the Midlands doing more to showcase the well designed and innovative products it produces.

Renaissance among leading brands

Beverley Nielsen, founder of IDEA Birmingham, said at the launch: “Something remarkable is happening in the Midlands. In the face of a flat-lining economy we are seeing a renaissance among our leading brands.

“Last year we were the second largest exporting region in the UK. Companies like Jaguar Land Rover, JCB, Rolls Royce and the body of medium and small sized businesses such as Brooks England, Emma Bridgewater, Acme Whistles, Pashley Cycles, are satisfying the desires of consumers around the world for luxury and authentic products.

“Growth doesn’t come from talking about economic models – it comes from supporting firms that innovate and design the products that people want to buy.

“The Midlands has these firms by the bucket load and is fast becoming a national hub for pioneering technology, international brands and beautiful pieces of design. This is our USP and we need to work together to support the firms we have and the talent coming out of our universities.”

IDEA Birmingham uniting region

IDEA Birmingham calls on Midland’s businesses and local and national government to work together through the development of an ‘innovation eco-system’ harnessing the power of the region and help to maximise its contribution now and in the future.

Having run Birmingham’s first Design Expo earlier this year in over 100 years IDEA Birmingham has been promoting and showcasing the wealth of brands and design excellence being produced in the region.

In supporting this initiative Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “We applaud this initiative to highlight the importance of design-led manufacturing in Birmingham and the role this region has played through design in improving the quality of life for people around the world.”

IDEA Birmingham’s report and call to arms is supported by leading Midlands brands, including Jaguar Land Rover, JCB, Emma Bridgewater, Aga Rangemaster, Morgan Motor Company, Brooks England and Acme Whistles.

“I look forward to it [IDEA Birmingham] promoting our region’s design and innovation excellence and encouraging greater collaboration and best practice growth across all sectors.”
Councillor Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council

Glenn Howells of Glenn Howells Architects said: “A lack of collaboration between businesses is holding back innovation capacity – both between and across the private and public sectors. Our survey shows that we can drive greater growth through businesses learning from each other and working together more through a focus on design and innovation to create new demand and satisfy existing markets.”

To maximise Birmingham’s potential as a design hub, IDEA Birmingham recommends:

1. A design-led strategic marketing campaign for Birmingham, the gateway to the Midlands, at the heart of which is the annual Birmingham Made Me Design Expo

2. Creating an Innovation and Design Leaders’ Network (IDLN) to build an collaborative, multi-disciplinary heart for the region

3. Support for new business formation and entrepreneurial talent.

To find out more about Idea Birmingham, the report and the 2013 Birmingham Made Me Expo, please contact: Beverley Nielsen on 07791 301 325

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