Our Comment: Review of the WMCA Local Industrial Strategy

On Thursday 16 May the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) published its Local Industrial Strategy, one of three trailblazers areas of the UK. This followed an extensive period of development and stakeholder engagement which SWM and many of our stakeholders contributed to. Here, we review the Strategy for its commitments to clean and inclusive growth.

An inclusive, clean and resilient economy

We’re delighted to see a whole chapter dedicated to the way that economic growth should benefit all of our people and a commitment to setting out more detailed actions in a West Midlands Inclusive Economy Plan and the development and testing of new approaches to priority issues through a new Inclusive Growth Unit.

Mobility

The strategy builds on our regional strengths in transport innovation and the ‘future of mobility’ is identified as a major new market opportunity with seven pages dedicated to details around this focus. The West Midlands will partner with local specialist manufacturers and R&D centres to help create new markets and foreign direct investment opportunities, such as those in Electric and Connected Autonomous Vehicles and battery manufacturing. It will develop an innovative and integrated transport network, including the UK’s first large-scale 5G testbed, to enable a new approach to real time data and user management across the whole transport system.

Low Carbon Technology

Low carbon technology is identified as a ‘sector strength’ and the strategy recognises that the West Midlands is home to highly productive low carbon and environmental technology firms who will lead the response to challenges in mobility, energy and manufacturing.

Energy

There are significant challenges in the region around the energy infrastructure that will underpin housing, industry and electric vehicles, as well as the issues of clean air and fuel poverty. West Midlands industry spends over £2bn each year on energy and £15bn additional expenditure is expected between now and 2030. BEIS will continue working with Energy Capital, regulators and industry partners to explore locally led options on potential new local institutional models for managing regional energy investment and markets and ‘Energy Innovation Zones’ in Tyseley, Solihull, Coventry and the Black Country.

Natural Capital

The work of the Natural Capital Roundtable is evident in the inclusion of commitments to celebrate and improve the high quality natural environment, public spaces and biodiversity of the West Midlands by developing a long-term plan for natural capital and the principle of an annual net gain for natural capital, developing the tools that help reverse the current trend in biodiversity loss.

Air Quality

The WMCA are leading on the development of the Low Emissions Strategy and Action Plan which aims to improve air quality and health and wellbeing. It will provide new clean growth opportunities with the private sector. The region will accelerate charging infrastructure for zero emission vehicles driven by demand.

Innovation

The strength of the West Midlands innovation ecosystem is acknowledged along with the work of our partners at the Innovation Alliance West Midlands and the development of the locally led Innovation Framework and new programmes which focus on networks, investment programmes, talent, intelligence and culture.

Business

The West Midlands will take a targeted approach that focuses on working with businesses through sector action plans, and identifying the needs of different kinds of businesses and the tailored offer they need to grow. This differs across different parts of the region and will require coordinated action by Growth Hubs, business networks, existing business advisors and business schools. The Local Industrial Strategy prioritises three areas of business growth including scale up, productivity and finance. With support from the WMCA we have today launched our own ‘Sustainable Business Support Hub’ which is aimed to be a first stop for all businesses aiming to improve their sustainability.

What’s missing?

We believe that our region is home to many innovative businesses working in the waste and resource sector and this simply isn’t reflected in the strategy. We’re currently working with Government in the development of the Sector Deal for Waste and Resources, specifically on the ‘Place’ chapter and the need for the unique characteristics and strengths of our region to be recognised. We hope that this sector is recognised by the WMCA and given due support and prioritisation going forward.

“Sustainability West Midlands welcome the publication of the Local Industrial Strategy and are pleased to see that our Mayor, the WMCA and their partners have placed clean and inclusive growth at its heart. Our regional strengths in low carbon technologies are recognised, as is the value of our unique natural environment and biodiversity. With commitments to space and finance for innovation, we will see the growth of new market opportunities in future mobility and energy, and solutions to address urban challenges like air quality, flooding, overheating and climate change adaptation. In partnership with our networks of businesses, local authorities, universities, the health sector and communities, we look forward to supporting its implementation” 

Anna Bright, Chief Executive, Sustainability West Midlands