Page 6: Working in partnership
The Zones are working through forums of partnerships, which encourage people to work across traditional boundaries and develop new relationships. Leadership in economic development has to be shared among a number of organisations, each contributing where they can best add value, rather than duplicating effort.
A second area where the Agency concentrates its efforts is to develop 'business clusters'. Clusters are groups of businesses and related organisations linked through a common technology or an end product. They include suppliers and specialist educational institutions, involved with industry (or cluster) - related training and research. The 10 clusters that have been identified as being most relevant to the ongoing development of the West Midlands, and are split into:
- Established clusters: e.g. food and drink and transport technologies. The emphasis here is helping these clusters to diversify and modernise.
- Growing clusters: e.g. information and communication technology, environmental technologies. These are already showing signs of growth.
- Embryonic or aspirational clusters: e.g. Interactive media for education and entertainment, medical technologies. These are good prospects for growth.
Stimulating the growth of these clusters involves:
- identifying market opportunities through market research
- encouraging collaborative efforts within clusters e.g. skills development, sharing of research efforts, etc.
For example, the illustration below illustrates the Food and Drinks Cluster:
The Food and Drink Cluster employs about 60,000 people and includes:
- agricultural commodity supply e.g. potatoes and dairy products
- processing of these commodities e.g. into ready meals
- key confectionery industry with world famous names like Cadbury, wholesaling of foodstuffs, distribution
- production of agricultural machinery.
This cluster was chosen because it is one of the mamajor employers and is experiencing growth in employment. Consumer tastes are continually changing and food safety is a major concern. Working together as a cluster, firms can build on new opportunities such as the growth in demand for ethnic foods.
The Transport Technologies cluster is perhaps the most important in the West Midlands employing about 175,000 people. It includes commodity manufacture of metal and polymer components, metal processes/ treatments, electrical/electronic/mechanical sub systems and vehicles. There are high concentrations of activity including the Jaguar plant at Castle Bromwich.
This cluster is identifying opportunities for focusing on higher value added activities, based on new technologies and in luxury cars, motor sports and materials to improve products through design. There are many opportunities for technology transfer between different modes of transport and also in the use of new materials that lessen environmental impact.
- High technology corridors
Advantage West Midlands has identified three 'high technology' corridors, which provide opportunities to diversify the economic base of the region. These corridors are areas where the Agency is working with partners and concentrating effort so that more high technology companies locate and expand in the region.
The corridors have two common characteristics:
- The potential to attract and develop more high tech businesses by virtue of the presence of universities, research institutions or property opportunities.
- Location in areas heavily dependent on the automotive sector - many of Rover's suppliers are located in these parts of the region.
A strategy has been identified for each corridor along with a number of potential projects to help take forward cluster development and support high technology industry.