Dr Abigail Taylor provides an economic snapshot of the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP area following the five foundations of the Industrial Strategy: Ideas, People, Infrastructure, Business Environment and Place.
As part of the Midlands Engine Economic Observatory work, WM REDI and the Black Country Consortium Economic Intelligence Unit developed Local Economic Partnership (LEP) level profiles. We have reviewed and updated these profiles and assessed the risks in light of Covid-19 in the State of the Region report.
The Coventry and Warwickshire LEP area has internationally recognised strengths in research and development, especially, advanced engineering, energy, advanced manufacturing, low carbon-technologies, advanced propulsion and digital innovation.
Research and innovation are strongly supported by the presence of two universities, Coventry University and the University of Warwick. Coventry is also home to Arden University, a private, for-profit teaching university which offers a variety of undergraduate and post-graduate programmes through blended and online distance learning.
A large number of world-class state-of-the-art research and development and innovation assets are located within the area. These include:
- Coventry University Technology Park
- the University of Warwick’s multi-site Science Park
- the Advanced Propulsion Centre at the University of Warwick
- the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre in Coventry
- Horiba MIRA in Nuneaton
- the National Automotive Innovation Centre at the University of Warwick
- the National Transport Design Centre at Coventry University
- Warwick Manufacturing Group
- the Quinton Rail Technology Centre
- the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre being constructed in Coventry to support battery manufacturing development.
Coventry and Warwickshire stand out for the high level of business spend on R&D. £3,107 is spent on R&D per full-time equivalent in the area. This is over six times the level of business spending on R&D in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, and over thirty times the level of spending in the Black Country. Over recent years, the area has also benefitted from the value of research funding particularly from the European Union. Between 2014 and 2018 the area secured 56,158,404€ from Horizon 2020, the European Union’s research and innovation programme. UKRI then provided a further £864,635,745 between 2012 and 2021.
Coventry and Warwickshire have a very well educated workforce with a higher proportion of the working-age population being educated to NVQ Level 4 or above than elsewhere in the West Midlands. Coventry and Warwickshire also has the highest employment rate at 77.5% in 2019. This is important in terms of enabling companies to have the skills needed to be competitive and to develop new products. Unemployment is also lower than in the two other WMCA LEP areas at 3.5% in 2019.
The area also has the highest average earnings of the three WMCA LEP areas.
A number of innovative training providers operate in the area including Warwick Trident College (a facility purpose-built with industry providing a workplace-style learning environment, to train apprentices in manufacturing, mechanical, electrical, electronic, automotive and product creation sectors) and Digital Schoolhouse. Together with Nintendo UK, Digital Schoolhouse uses play-based learning to engage the next generation of pupils and teachers with the Computing curriculum.
Coventry and Warwickshire is a key transport hub within the Midlands. Coventry is 20 minutes from Birmingham International Airport and is served by a range of transport infrastructure including rail and multiple motorways. It is within 4 hours travel time of 98% of the UK’s population supporting the area’s key role as a home for distribution facilities. The area is well-located to benefit from the additional capacity and faster journey times provided by HS2 as well as the associated re-development of Birmingham International Rail Station and the regeneration of the adjacent areas including UK Central, Europe’s largest single investable development site. The area is also leading the way in connected autonomous vehicle technologies. Aurrigo, in Coventry, is working with Westfield Technology Group based in Dudley, to build a global reputation in the design, manufacture, testing and deployment of innovative autonomous vehicles. UK Autodrive selected Coventry as one of two cities to pilot driverless technology. Additionally, the Coventry area is part of the 5G testbed with Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Initial proposals include using 5G technology the West Midlands Combined Authority collaborating with Jaguar Land Rover to test driverless cars. The area is developing alternative forms of rail travel including hydrogen-powered trains and an innovative and affordable Very Light Rail (VLR) system in Coventry. Alongside the redevelopment of Coventry Rail Station to provide an integrated multi-modal passenger transport hub, the VLR is an R&D-led manufacturing initiative designed to deliver significant economic benefits. Rail travel was also supported in 2019 by Warwickshire County Council when they announced plans to investigate building a new station between Coventry and Kenilworth stations to better serve the University of Warwick.
Among the West Midlands LEP areas, GVA per employee is highest in Coventry and Warwickshire at £63,143 in 2018. The area has particular strengths in the Professional, Scientific and Technical, Education, Information and Communication, Business administration and Support Services sector, Mining, Quarrying and Utilities, and Transport and Storage sectors. The proportion of firms born before 2013 earning between £1m and £3m in 2017 is higher than in the Black Country but lower than in Greater Birmingham and Solihull. The area is home to a large digital and gaming sector. Approximately, 2,500 digital businesses exist in the Coventry and Warwickshire area, including the gaming cluster around Leamington Spa known as ‘Silicon Spa’, representing approximately 15% of the national digital games development workforce. According to research by Roper and Bonner (2019), the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP area is good at innovative sales, marketing and co-operation, but is strongest in terms of design investment for innovation. The area is ranked 2nd of 39 LEP areas for this indicator.
Coventry and Warwickshire benefit from a competitive business environment as evidenced by the area having the highest Competitive Index score among the West Midlands LEPs in 2019. However, visitor spending and the number of visitor stays whilst higher than in the Black Country are low when compared to the value and number of visits in Greater Birmingham and Solihull. There is an opportunity to boost national and international tourism when Coventry is the UK City of Culture in 2021. The area features the city of Coventry, a number of historic and distinctive market towns including Leamington Spa, Nuneaton, Rugby, Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick, in addition to cultural, heritage and leisure assets, large rural areas and attractive green spaces.
In terms of dwelling stock, it has the third-lowest level of stock in the West Midlands suggesting that unless the housing stock is expanded, the area may not have sufficient housing stock to support continued population growth. It is encouraging that in 2017-2018 Coventry and Warwickshire had the second-highest number of dwellings completed in the West Midlands, indicating some progress may be being made in addressing the shortage of dwellings.
The views expressed in this analysis post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of City-REDI or the University of Birmingham.
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