Workshop: Growing Your Business in the West Midlands

By Kealan Finnegan

The UK India Business Council hosted a workshop with West Midlands Growth Company on ‘Growing your business in the West Midlands’.

The workshop was opened by UKIBC CEO, Richard McCallum, and Chief Investment Officer, WMGC, Dan Storer on the opportunities for greater bilateral trade and investment, and the West Midlands strengths and priorities. West Midlands, the second largest recipient of investment in the UK (after London), has five key sector strengths: financial and professional services (in which it is the second largest cluster in the UK); advanced manufacturing (in which it is the UK’s largest sector cluster); digital services; low carbon; and life sciences.

We also heard from West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, on the strong West Midlands-India relationship, owing greatly to the much-valued Indian diaspora in the region contributing so much to the region’s culture, economy, academia, and society. Mr Street will soon lead a delegation of businesses, official and universities to India in November to boost trading links between the West Midlands and India.

There are many natural synergies between India and the West Midlands such as the electric vehicle and tech sectors. Last year, 50 percent of Indian investment into the UK was in the West Midlands, demonstrating the strong relationship and ecosystem of Indian investors.

The workshop then split into two sessions, covering Future Mobility and Creative and Digital Tech.

Future Mobility (hosted by Adam Titchen, West Midlands Growth Company)

Future mobility is a strong sector in the UK and India respectively, owed in large part to the strong history of automotive sectors and growing technology and transition to future mobility and alternative transportation. Together, the potential for mutual benefit by working together, sharing R&D, sharing technology, is huge. In the session, the audience heard from David Shepherd, Department for International Trade, who shared examples of the positive collaborations happening between UK and Indian businesses in the future mobility and automotive sector, supported by the complementarity of expertise and sector priorities in both countries.

We also heard from Norton Motor CEO Robert Hentschel. Iconic UK brand Norton Motors was recently acquired by Indian company TVS Motors in 2020 and has since opened a new facility in the West Midlands region. Robert shared insights on the benefits the region has contributed to Norton’s success, including the hub of advanced manufacturing, engineering and future mobility companies in the region. This has enabled Norton to build relations and work with partners, of great benefit due to the complex nature of the development of mobility products. Norton also benefits from a strong relationship with the Warwick Manufacturing Group, part of Warwick University, supporting the development of talent, skills, and research and development in the region.

Creative and Digital Tech (hosted by Rohit Singh, UK India Business Council and moderated by Mike Lewis, West Midlands Growth Company)

The West Midlands is home to the fastest growing tech cluster in the UK, with 65,000 tech professionals set to double in the next four years, and the second largest cohort of computer science students in the country.

In the session, we heard practical examples that companies interested in establishing in the region will benefit from, including access to a great employee skillset, relative lower cost of living compared to London, and the young talent in the region which plays an important part in the technology sector. The two case studies were presented by Nagaraja Kini, Microland and Abhijit Aphale, InfinityLabs.

Other benefits they found was easy access to 5G and new technologies. They also found that the region is diverse and inclusive, important factors that enable them to grow. Infinity Labs also looked at the education opportunities for their employees and families and how well connected the region is with other parts of the UK. The West Midlands location in the middle of the country gives fantastic access to London and other parts of the country.

Both case studies praised the support they received from the West Midlands Growth Centre when they set up their businesses in the region. To name a few, they received excellent legal, financial, and banking support advice. This was combined with access to a wide connection of contacts.

The support received enabled Microland to set up their Digital Hub. They have started to transition from a regional to an international hub through their digital centre.

The workshop was closed by UKIBC CEO Dickie McCallum.

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