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Birmingham - a crucial time for opportunity, investment and innovation

Blog, Birmingham
Birmingham city centre is a short walk away

Set to transform Birmingham City Centre, the new 2040 vision laid out by Birmingham City Council introduces a greener, fairer, more sustainable and interconnected city within the next twenty years.

The vision encourages and supports Birmingham’s continuing transformation into a world class city. It covers every aspect of the built environment and focuses on improved connectivity across the city, rethinking the city centre as interconnected fifteen minute neighbourhoods. This includes more walking and cycle routes, more mixed use environments, better access to city centre locations and 65,000 square metres of new and improved public space, including plans for a new National Park for the West Midlands. 

The vision also sees the establishment of four key quarters within the city, including the Creative Quarter in Digbeth, set to become a new hub for filmmakers and artists; and the Knowledge Quarter, the home of Aston and Birmingham City Universities, a hub for the city’s growing digital tech sector and the site of HS2’s Curzon Street Station.

Whilst all of this certainly gives Birmingham’s residents, workers and visitors something to look forward to, lots of investment and activity is already well underway, creating a wealth of opportunity.

In a city ranked ‘startup capital’ for seven consecutive years with over 3000 tech businesses generating around £2billion for the local economy, and where more than 30 medical facilities and research institutions work on the next breakthroughs, it is an important time for the city and the wider UK economy too.

David Hardman, Managing Director, Bruntwood SciTech - Birmingham discusses what’s happening in the city right now and why this is such a great opportunity for the city and the region… 

“With one of the youngest and most diverse populations in the UK, Birmingham has a wealth of skills and talent, particularly when it comes to the life sciences and digital technology sectors.  12 Universities are home to 50 tech-related centres of excellence, producing over 70,000 graduates per year, while the city’s booming prof-tech sector in fields such as legaltech, insurtech and fintech, has led to the establishment of SuperTech WM; the UK’s first dedicated proftech cluster group of its kind, focused on amplifying the potential of regional professional services businesses.

The planned arrival of HS2 has also helped to provide a catalytic boost for the economic renewal of the Birmingham City region economy. The site of the Curzon Street Station, situated at the boundary between Birmingham's Knowledge Quarter and the Digbeth Creative Quarter will provide a fully connected transport hub, enhancing the already great physical connectivity the city enjoys with London, the south east and the rest of the country.

Home to over 11 of the city’s world-leading academic, clinical and cultural institutions such as Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Aston University, Birmingham City University and the National College for Advanced Transport and Infrastructure,  Birmingham’s new Knowledge Quarter is emerging as a place.

It signifies an important alliance that will focus on growing the city’s knowledge economy, creating a guiding ‘force’ to orchestrate activities to promote knowledge gain, exchange and application to drive innovation ensuring individuals do not find themselves isolated and uncertain where to turn to secure the support they need to deliver their commercial aspirations.

It will catalyse the translation of academic research from the universities, making access to research and development more readily available for commercial companies and attracting inward investment to the area. It will also provide opportunities for the local citizens to engage with a thriving knowledge economy.

In the heart of the Knowledge Quarter is the Innovation Birmingham Campus - the region’s home for digital tech; part of the West Midlands 5G testbed and already home to over 150 disruptive digital and tech businesses.  Here, start-ups, scale ups and SMEs are connected to and co-located with large commercial and public sector partners such as the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network, Balfour Beatty, Bouygues and HS2, working in a challenge-led environment where market needs spark innovation requirements to create and deliver new products and services.  

5PRING, the UK’s first 5G commercial applications accelerator is also located at the Campus.  Led by telecoms giant Telefonica, in partnership with Wayra, Digital Catapult and Deloitte, 5PRING works with startups, sector experts and enterprise organisations to transform the way we live and work by leveraging the power of 5G, providing businesses with unique access to 5G technologies which are not yet commercially available.   

The recently announced development of Enterprise Wharf will provide an additional 120,000 sq ft of new high quality commercial workspace, with landscaped canalside access and private roof terrace for users to enjoy. It will offer an innately tech enabled environment suitable for the ambitious tech companies of tomorrow. It will also be Birmingham’s first smart-enabled building, bringing ‘smart’ Building Management System, HVAC, lighting, CCTV and green energy data to life through a visual data dashboard process, helping occupants to drive productivity, increase efficiency, reduce cost and improves user experience by connecting the building to IoT sensors, people and processes. 

Enterprise Wharf will help to support inward investment into the region, providing space for large digital and tech businesses specialising in the worlds of AI, VR, edtech, sporttech, fintech, legaltech and others.

The Midlands also has particular strengths in digitally-enabled, data driven healthcare and is home to one of the largest concentrations of medical technology companies in the UK.  The region’s USP lies not only in its strengths in one particular area but in the whole value chain from research through to manufacturing and logistics. The West Midlands has the second largest cluster of healthcare technology small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the country. It is also the third-largest medtech cluster in the UK and has the fifth-highest level of life sciences employment. 

More than 10,000 skilled life sciences graduates are trained in Birmingham every year. Added to this, it has the open and inclusive culture, infrastructure and environment and diverse and stable population needed to support a thriving life science sector.

The creation of the Birmingham Health Innovation Campus (BHIC) in Selly Oak, co-located with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Biohub Birmingham, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and University of Birmingham will provide a new focal point for connected healthcare technologies, bringing together leading experts in medical devices, data, genomics, diagnostics, healthcare technology development and evaluation and clinical trials and when complete will help to create an additional 10,000 jobs in the wider region and boost the local economy by around £400m GVA per year.

Already designated as a Life Sciences Opportunity Zone by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and a High Potential Opportunity for Data Driven Healthcare by the Department for International Trade (DIT), BHIC will strengthen the West Midlands’ position to capitalise on the UK’s emerging healthtech sector, which attracted £1.12bn in investment in 2020. 

The first phase - No1 BHIC will provide over 130,000 sq ft of new, high quality office space and lab space for companies working in Medtech, Biopharma, Precision Medicine, Healthcare AI, Cancer and Genomics. 

It will also be home to the University of Birmingham’s Precision Health Technologies Accelerator (PHTA) which provides direct access to the University's fully connected clinical trials ecosystem and research capabilities, and offers the perfect environment to scale innovations for rapid adoption into the healthcare system. PHTA will also house the Birmingham Precision Medicine Centre (BPMC), which will offer a commercially focused, innovative end-to-end clinical and academic partnership for the delivery of precision medicine – underpinned by clinical expertise, academic research excellence and access to a large, diverse and stable patient population of over 5.7 million people.

BHIC presents a special opportunity for Birmingham and the West Midlands. It will create thousands of jobs and opportunities for new and existing businesses to thrive. It will provide cutting-edge innovation facilities, building on the area’s nationally recognised strengths in healthcare data, genomics medicine and diagnostics, medical technologies and clinical trials.

BHIC will be an environment that will help businesses to form, collaborate and grow. It will establish a new platform to advance life-saving health innovations and enable companies to access the clinical market faster. 

And now, as Birmingham gets ready to welcome the Commonwealth Games in 2022, this city and the wider region has the perfect opportunity to stand out on a global stage and showcase it’s strengths in culture, diversity, tech, science and innovation. The future is certainly bright for Birmingham and we can’t wait to see this city thrive in years to come.’

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