Midlands Innovation Launched

Midlands Innovation launch

On 26 April 2016 Midlands Innovation was launched. A formal partnership between six research intensive Universities: Aston, Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick. It took place in London, with speeches from Lord O’Neill of Gatley (Commercial Secretary to the Treasury) and Dr Tony Harper (Head of Research at Jaguar Land Rover). You can read more about the launch on the Treasury’s website

Although this partnership is new, it is grounded on many years of working together at the regional level on a number of initiatives. Important examples are the Midlands Physics Alliance (Birmingham, Nottingham, Warwick); Midlands Energy Consortium (Birmingham, Loughborough, Nottingham); Manufacturing Technology Centre (Birmingham, Loughborough, Nottingham); Midlands 3 Cities BGP (Birmingham, Leicester, Nottingham); and the M5 Equipment Sharing Partnership (Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick).

So, the trust built on these collaborations, and the increasing emphasis on regional cooperation and funding made committing to Midlands Innovation relatively straightforward.

Collectively the six universities are a formidable force. They account for 10% of the UK’s total research staff; attract 90% of the region’s publically funded research; add more than £2 billion in gross value added to the region’s economy, and support 60,000 jobs. Five of the Universities are in the UK’s top 30 for Research Power. There is scale, breadth, depth and quality. Moreover there are a myriad of international connections.

And the local geography helps – the farthest distance between any pair is 55 miles.

The partnership already boasts a genuine flagship, the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) which is underpinned by £60 million of Government funding and £120 million of industry match. This is a cross disciplinary research programme to drive energy transformation. It will bring together 450 academics focused on energy related projects in three research accelerator hubs for Geo-Energy Systems (G-ERA), Integrated Energy Systems (I-ERA) and Thermal Energy (T-ERA). G-ERA will be driven from a new facility on Jubilee Campus.

Planning is well advanced on other initiatives in transport and healthcare, and a joint bid for an ESRC Doctoral Training Centre has been submitted.

There is also close alignment between Midlands Innovation and the Midlands Engine for Growth, which was launched by Secretary of State Javid in December 2015, this region’s counterpart to the Northern Powerhouse. It is mobilizing around the key manufacturing platforms which the Midlands hosts: in automotive, aerospace, rail, food and drink, and life sciences. Manufacturing in the Midlands contributes £12 billion annually to the UK economy, and the Science and Innovation Audit which is now underway will reveal just how important the Midlands Innovation Universities are to the region’s innovation capacity and capability.

Midlands Innovation offers huge potential across all disciplines. ERA will have immediate impact, and other major initiatives are expected to follow.

April 2016

Posted on Thursday 30th March 2017