The Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, in conjunction with City-REDI, launched their 2016 Economic Review of Birmingham on 1st November. Here City-REDI’s Catherine Harris provides a summary of the event.
GBCC Chief Executive Paul Faulkner provided a welcome to the event which focussed on the three parts of the report.
1) The Structure and Geography of the Economy of Birmingham
2) Workforce and Skills in Birmingham
3) Enterprise and Business Opportunities in Birmingham
The first of the panellists, Professor Simon Collinson, Director of City-REDI, highlighted the report’s key findings and described Birmingham as an “ecosystem”. He explained that Birmingham is the youngest major city in Europe, with under 25’s accounting for nearly 40% of its population. The city has 67.7% economically active compared to 77.8% for the UK and about 23,300 people claiming Job Seekers Allowance compared to Manchester’s 6,000. It had a total economic output of £23.2bn in 2014. GVA per head was £21,093 (UK average is £24,958). In terms of education, Professor Collinson discussed how Birmingham is above the UK average for no formal qualifications but below average for all qualifications above and including NVQ1. Further, 32% of the working age population are educated to degree level or higher (UK average is 37.5%). 49% are NVQ3 or higher (UK average is 57.4%). This means that Birmingham has an over-supply of under-skilled inhabitants. Focusing on self-employment, 7.9% of the working age population (16-64) of Birmingham are self-employed versus 10.2% nationally. The city has a specialisation in jewellery manufacture, automotive, insurance and pension funding and legal activities. Birmingham is strong in business births with a rate of 48 per 10,000 people (UK average is 54, Manchester is 68). Inward investment is strong and growing. The city is also strong in terms of smart specialisation and offers a unique regional system of innovation and growth through industrial clusters around:
- Advanced Materials – including nanotechnology and composites
- Energy – including Hydrogen and fuel cells, bioenergy
- Low Carbon Technologies – including low carbon vehicles
- Innovative Healthcare – from medical devices to clinical trials
- Digital Technologies – including social media and 3-D imaging
Ali Bell, Head of External Communications, National Express, then spoke about Birmingham’s spatial economy through transport and connectivity in the city, in reference to the bus network. She picked up Professor Collinson’s idea of the city as an ‘ecosystem’ and explained how anything that happens within the transport network of Birmingham has a knock-on effect in the wider region. Bell discussed how congestion costs the West Midlands over £2 billion a year. She illustrated the importance of the bus network stating that 400,000 people are in more productive jobs as a direct result of bus access. She stressed that road-based public transport has a vital role to play in minimising congestion. Buses and coaches use road space more efficiently than private cars. A full coach can remove the equivalent of one mile of traffic from the road. A full bus takes 50 cars off the road.
Cliff Dennet from Innovation Birmingham was the final speaker and focussed on enterprise and business opportunities in Birmingham. He discussed Innovation Birmingham which is Birmingham’s largest growth centre for digital SMEs, start-ups and innovators. It offers office suites, co-working, help with start-ups and support for events. Their campus is home to 150 digital businesses.
The audience then discussed questions around the challenges facing Birmingham, access to training and the role of the city in the West Midlands Combined Authority.
The reports can be viewed here.