Advantage West Midlands has focused on creating an operating environment and a portfolio of support services, which encourage businesses to establish and grow in the region, and to maintain their competitive position by developing new products, implementing new processes and creating entrepreneurial business leaders.

The following areas provide an overview of the Agency's work to support business growth.


 

Business support has been central to delivering the West Midlands Economic Strategy and improving the economic performance, productivity and growth of the region.

Working alongside business representative groups and support agencies, the Agency has delivered targeted investment that has helped to create new businesses, helped to grow and develop existing businesses, and stimulated new market opportunities in strategic and growing sectors.

The Solutions for Business(SfB) product portfolio, part of the Government's business simplification plans, has been an important delivery method in this area of work.

On March 17, 2011, Mark Prisk, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, announced plans to streamline and refocus the SfB portfolio. To keep up to date on what is changing please visit  www.businesslink.gov.uk/governmentsupport.

Another key support service has been Business Link West Midlands. Managed by Advantage West Midlands since mid 2005, it has acted as a one-stop shop for all small and medium sized businesses seeking support. And through the West Midlands Minority Ethnic Forum, the Agency provided bespoke support services to help minority ethnic businesses. 

Case studies

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) | Birmingham City University (BCU) | QinetiQ

Reference Documents

West Midlands Economic Strategy (WMES) - PDF - 1mb

Solutions for Business Products Portfolio - PDF - 712kb

Advantage West Midlands has played a key role in tackling the major innovation challenges that exist within the West Midlands. It has helped influence national policies for the benefit of the region, provided strategic leadership and encouraged partnership working.

The Innovation and Technology Council (ITC), launched in 2004, has advised the Board of AWM on issues around innovation and technology.

The ITC informed AWM investment decision-making to support projects that helped increase business competitiveness; encouraged collaboration and investment in research and development; and built  the capacity and capability of the region’s universities, colleges and research institutions.

As a result, new technologies have been adpated, business productivity and diversification increased and key innovation projects introduced such as the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), the Serious Games Institute and Innovation Vouchers

Reference Documents

ITC Innovation Strategy - PDF - 90kb 

Manufacturing is vital to the future prosperity of the West Midlands, a region renowned for inventing, developing and manufacturing world-class products.

Advantage West Midlands has worked with partners in industry and higher education to help businesses adapt to the ever-changing manufacturing environment and to produce higher value added products.

The Agency developed the West Midlands Manufacturing Support Strategy which addresses challenges around low levels of skills, productivity and competitiveness in manufacturing businesses.

The Agency has also worked with key manufacturing and business groups - such as the Beacon Manufacturing Group, the EEF, the Confederation of British Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses, to agree three key priorities for the sector:

  • Develop world class research and development (R&D) capability to create globally competitive innovative businesses

  • Raise demand for, and use of, skills in manufacturing, and boost employment and investment prospects for the sector by creating positive attitudes towards manufacturing

  • Promote business modernisation and diversification through a more responsive and effective business support service

To deliver these priorities we provided additional investment to Business Link (Opens in new window) and the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) who became the main point of contact for SME manufacturers wishing to develop and improve any aspect of their operations.

The Premium Automotive Research & Development - PARD - programme has been a major success story for the West Midlands, linking world-class companies to the region's world-class universities and facilities. Launched in 2003, the £72 million programme improved the design and manufacturing capability of the region's automotive supply base. Nearly 240 new products and processes have been developed by PARD, safeguarding more than 5,000 jobs.

 

Reference Documents

Manufacturing Support Strategy (Full) - PDF - 563kb

Manufacturing Support Strategy (Summary) - PDF - 322kb

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is a key driver of economic growth. Research shows that in the West Midlands the sector consists of some 3,000 companies employing around 44,000 people with a turnover of £4.4 billion or 6 per cent of the UK's overall ICT output.

Already home to major names such as CSC, IBM, CapGemini, Fujitsu, EDS, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, LogicaCMG, Delcam and QinetiQ, ICT has always been a key sector with the potential to increase regional output through improvements to productivity and innovation.

Working with partners within this field, the regional ICT Strategy - Digital West Midlands – has been developed. It provided the framework for the development and exploitation of ICT within the public, private and voluntary sectors.

The Agency has also invested in schemes and initiatives to support the growth of ICT companies. For example, £3 million was invested into the e-business programme delivered by the National B2B Centre and IT Futures which focused on increasing the take-up of ICT by businesses. Working with Business Link West Midlands, the £3.5 millon Technology at Work programme encouraged SMEs such as the The Ludlow Nut Company to adopt IT.

The Agency has also worked directly with ICT businesses, such as Solihull-based Dynistics who used the concept of a car dashboard to develop new software and graphics that made data easier and quicker to interpret. 

Further examples of businesses who have been supported in the region can be viewed on the ICT West Midlands website or at Technology at Work

Reference Documents

Regional ICT Strategy - Digital West Midlands (Full) - PDF - 352kb

Regional ICT Strategy - Digital West Midlands (Summary) - PDF - 452kb

Advantage West Midlands has taken a lead role in promoting and supporting enterprise, most notably by establishing the West Midlands Regional Enterprise Board.

The Enterprise Board has provided expertise and advice on devising enterprise strategy and policy and assisted in developing a data-driven evidence base.

Three priorities emerged - identifying and supporting new businesses, improving existing businesses - particularly SMEs - and encouraging a strategic shift in the regional economy towards high value added and high growth areas.

Advantage West Midlands has also played an influential role at a national level by working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to ensure National Business Link policies have a regional perspective. It has also worked with business organisations such as the CBI , EEF and Federation of Small Businesses

Agency investment has also helped to stimulate enterprise by enhancing the support provided by  Business Link West Midlands and the Manufacturing Advisory Service It also supported the creation of four strategic Centres of Expertise to develop enterprise policy for young people, women, minority ethnic businesses and social enterprise.

Reference Documents

West Midlands Economic Strategy

Support for sustainable social enterprise has been a key element of Advantage West Midlands' overall approach to encouraging new business creation and improving the competitiveness of the region.

A study carried out in 2008 found that 5,500 social enterprises based in the region had contributed in excess of 156,000 jobs and £5.7 billion per year in traded income to the region's economy.

The Agency's strategic leadership and investment in this area has ranged from the inclusion of social enterprise as a key element of our region-wide suite of business support products, to funding Social Enterprise West Midlands – the first ever regional social enterprise network and Centre of Expertise.

Ensuring businesses have access to appropriate finance is key to an enterprising region. Entrepreneurs need finance to start new businesses and existing businesses need it to realise opportunities for growth.

Advantage West Midlands understood this requirement and acted to ensure that crucial financial support was made available. The Agency established the Regional Finance Forum which in turn helped develop the Access to Finance Framework.

The Agency also played a key role in identifying market failures that had created gaps in the supply of finance. The Agency worked closely with business advisors and support providers, central Government, banks and other private sector financiers to plug these gaps and make access to finance as comprehensive and simple as possible.

This work, coupled with Agency investment, increased the supply and range of finance available to regional businesses - from equity-based finance through to loans and direct grants. The resulting suite of finance products really makes a difference to businesses in the West Midlands.

The region’s venture capital funds have invested over £61 million into over 230 businesses, leveraging in a further £170 million of investment from other sources.

The Advantage Transition Bridge Fund has lent over £11 million to 66 businesses, providing a welcome source of finance during the worst of the credit crunch

The Advantage Proof of Concept Grant helped nearly 200 businesses explore innovative ideas with grant support of approximately £5 million

The Agency’s support has also grown the capacity and activity levels of the region’s business angels, providing an ongoing source of business angel funding for young, growing businesses.

Grant for Business Investment, operated by the Agency on behalf of BIS, has supported approximately 100 business annually with nearly £10 million grant funding towards capital investment, improving productivity and employment prospects. GBI examples are Barnshaw Section Benders in the Black Country and Olympus Engineering in Stoke-on-Trent. 

Grant for Research and Development has provided approximately £1.5 million annually in support of R&D activity amongst SMEs and Agency support to Community Development Finance Institutions has enabled them to lend over £5 million to more than 250 businesses during 2009/10. They continue to have ERDF support available to help them maintain the activity.

A number of these venture capital funds, along with other grants and loans continue to have funds available for investment. For further information visit westmidlandsfinance.com

Reference Documents

Access to Finance Framework - PDF - 43kb

Finance and Grants for West Midlands Businesses - PDF - 653kb

The West Midlands is home to around 2,300 foreign companies from over 40 countries. They employ around 250,000 people - around one fifth of the region's workforce.

Major international names such as Airbus, Microsoft, Deutsche BankTata, Cap Gemini,  Computer Science Corporation CSC, UPSMahindra, ICICI Bank and Lafarge have all chosen to invest and create jobs in the past 10 years. They joined longer-established companies such as IBM, Oracle, and Muller Diaries.

Advantage West Midlands has played a lead role in encouraging, influencing and assisting international businesses to move to the region. Working to the International Business Action Plan - PDF - 108kb, the Agency has focused on promoting the high-value high-growth sectors which offer the greatest opportunities for overseas investors - automotive, digital media, ICT, building technologies and environmental technologies.

Independent research has shown that for every £1 invested on inward investment activity, the Agency has generated a return of £32.

Successes have ranged from encouraging major companies to the region such as Microsoft Rare Games through to the Bridge to Growth Programme which has attracted more than 50 overseas firms and created 560 jobs since it was set up in 2006.

Reference Documents

International Business Action Plan - PDF - 108kb

The business clusters established by Advantage West Midlands are groups of companies that work together to exploit market opportunities in sectors where the region has existing or potential strength for business growth.

The Agency identified 12 clusters, and set up business-led Cluster Opportunity Groups to develop action plans for businesses to increase market share through collaboration, supply-chain development, product development and improved planning.

At any one time around 3,000 businesses were actively collaborating in these initiatives. Cluster achievements include an impressive regional order book for wind turbine generators, a new serious games (virtual reality simulation) institute, demonstrators for assistive living housing and SMEs working on public buildings to develop products to reduce climate change.

Key achievements for each of the clusters are shown below:

Aerospace | Automotive | Building Technologies | Environmental Technologies | Food and Drink | ICT | Interiors and Lifestyle | Medical Technologies | Rail | Screen Image and Sound | Specialist Business and Professional Services | Tourism and Leisure

Reference Documents

Cluster Guide - PDF - 637kb

Your Advantage West Midlands contact

Please contact the switchboard on 0121 380 3500 for assistance