Setting #BrumInMotion: Unlocking Birmingham's innovative future

Millennium Point

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce to provide industry insight on the findings of the Birmingham Economic Review. 

The Birmingham Economic Review 2017 is produced by the University of Birmingham’s City-REDI and the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, with contributions from the West Midlands Growth Company. It is an in-depth exploration of the economy of England’s second city and is a high quality resource for organisations seeking to understand Birmingham to inform research, policy or investment decisions.

This post is featured in Chapter 9: Innovation of the Birmingham Economic Review, which can be found here. You can read the full report and report summary here.

Historically, when discussing innovation, the UK’s second city is never too far from topic. Whether it’s the cooker or the first mass-production of steel nib pens, we’re rarely short of a story about innovative Brummies—but how can we ensure its’ ongoing security in Birmingham’s future?

Recent reports indicate that by investing in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) we innovate and drive productivity, which in turn increases Birmingham’s economic growth. The ‘Science & Innovation Audit’ (SIA) for the West Midlands, published in June, recommends “leveraging” science and innovation to stimulate new products and processes that will help tackle the gap in productivity between a business’s physical inputs and output.

Birmingham City University and the Regional Observatory published a digital and tech deep dive report in May, which estimated that tech and digital alone will add £2.2 billion to the West Midlands economy by 2025 with an additional 84,000 jobs. It also cited innovative use of digital technologies as a key factor to create value and boost competitiveness and productivity. So, we know there is a place for innovation in our future but the question remains, how? One solution is by investing in our young people.

A widening skills gap sits between today and Birmingham’s innovative future with a significant proportion of new roles requiring job specific higher-level skills and qualifications. In addition to improvements driven by changes in the curriculum, we must collaborate to bridge this gap by investing in initiatives that raise awareness of STEM and encourage pursuit of it in education. Beyond that, we must ensure that future innovators remain in our city by offering job security and appeal on completion of their education and pride in the city.

In our capacity as a charity supporting STEM initiatives in the region, we’re proud to fund an annual young innovator prize, awarding a scholarship at BCU. We’re also the founding sponsor of HackTheMidlands—a ‘hackathon’ for multi-ability programmers to transform ideas into tangible projects in 24 hours.

Its organiser, Tom Goodman, is a 20-year old undergraduate programmer from University of Birmingham. With our support, his innovative approach to encourage peers to pursue interests in STEM in a supportive environment stimulates talent for future projects. However, it’s not just about them.

Organisations who engage young people through support of such initiatives gain themselves a gateway into future innovation and business growth: for young people to contribute their talent and ideas and develop skills to craft new products and processes which will drive productivity.

Our initial support of HackTheMidlands led to longer term collaboration after we commissioned founder Tom to develop a digital art/legacy piece resulting in a networking visualisation called LINC. This tool displays mutual interests of guests at events to help them engage with like-minded attendees—innovating how they are able to network.

We’re a city of a 1000 trades and a continuously innovative future is within our grasp. Support initiatives that invest in the talent of our young people, and join us in setting #BrumInMotion.

Judith Armstrong
CEO, Millennium Point