The economy of the UK has experienced a dramatic change in recent years as a result of both:
• demand factors – modern consumers want different goods than those bought by previous generations
• supply factors – the way in which products are made today is different, and there is far greater competition from across the globe to supply modern markets.
The economic fortunes of different UK regions fluctuate over time. Areas that were once dynamic centres of industry can lose their vitality, as a result of changes in demand/buying patterns over time, or as new competing regions develop. At the same time, new growth poles develop. Today businesses operate in a global rather than a regional or national economy. Competitors for firms in Birmingham are no longer just those in Solihull and further afield in Manchester; instead, they may be in Germany, the USA, or China
This case study examines how one of the UK’s most important regions, the West Midlands, with a long history of industrial innovation is undergoing development and regeneration in order to meet these changes in demand and supply and to consolidate its position at the heart of the UK economy. The West Midlands lies at the centre of the United Kingdom. It is the country’s manufacturing and agricultural heartland and the hub of the transport system. The region remains closely associated with innovation and change.
The development of the West Midlands
The West Midlands has a proud industrial history, being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in this country; iron and steel, bicycle and motor vehicle manufacture, the rail and aircraft industries, all forms of engineering, pottery and many others. These industries are still important, as are the skills of the people involved, but today we live in a more diverse economy, in which:
- the new industrial age of the microchip has transformed
- industrial processes
- services are as important as manufacturing
- women make up 50 of the workforce.