December 2022

University partners share united vision for regional growth at Westminster reception

By Melanie Hall

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MPs, dignitaries, professionals and academics rallied to discuss the importance of harnessing education and new technology in the regeneration of the West Midlands at an event at the House of Commons sponsored by University College Birmingham and the University of Warwick.

The Centre for the New Midlands (CNM) hosted its first winter reception at the prestigious Churchill Room in the Palace of Westminster, an event sparking lively discussion around the stimulation of the regional economy and the role local business and entrepreneurship has in renewing the region’s fortunes.

The event was the chance for University College Birmingham and the University of Warwick, which launched a partnership this year, to share their united vision for improving access to training and education through the establishment of a holistic partnership designed to develop new schemes, programmes and initiatives to meet the evolving needs of the region. 

"We, along with CNM, will champion our people and our industry to build a better West Midlands"

Professor Michael Harkin Vice-Chancellor and Principal

With guest speakers including Andy Street CBE, Mayor of the West Midlands, and Saqib Bhatti MBE, Conservative MP for Meriden, the event saw local business owners share their views on boosting regional growth.

They included Haydn Povey, founder of device security experts Secure Thingz, who spoke of the importance of protecting business infrastructure to ensure longevity and continued growth in an increasingly competitive market.

Professor Michael Harkin speaking at the event

Professor Michael Harkin, Vice-Chancellor and Principal at University College Birmingham, said of the university partnership’s involvement: “The event was an excellent opportunity for us to not only share our ambitions and vision for our partnership with the University of Warwick, but to reinforce our commitment and critical role in delivering for our region. 

“The West Midlands is a region of unlimited potential, as is our partnership, and our message at the House of Commons was clear. We, along with the Centre for the New Midlands, will champion our people and our industry to build a better West Midlands.”

Guest speakers included West Midlands Mayor Andy Street CBE and Meriden MP Saqib Bhatti MBE

Professor Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick, said: “Our partnership with University College Birmingham is a unique approach to working together to make a difference to the West Midlands region through education, skills development and employability.

“We recognise the importance of building on our complementary strengths of high-quality teaching, vocational qualifications, employer engagement, and connecting graduates to high value and high demand job sectors, working together for a stronger region. 

“It’s important that we share our vision with MPs and policy makers, and work closely with advocates for the region such as the Centre for the New Midlands and with the support from Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands.”

The evening also provided members of the CNM Reimagining the Region membership the opportunity to meet with their peers, as well as parliamentarians from across the West Midlands region, in order to forge new relationships and partnerships that eventually drive real tangible change.

In pictures: CNM event at House of Commons

Chris Smith, Founder and Managing Director at CNM

Debate, shape and create

Chris Smith, Founder and Managing Director at CNM, said: “Our ambition is that we offer a place where people can come to ‘debate, shape and create’ a ‘better’ region, and this event offered the ideal setting, in the democratic heart of our country, for likeminded individuals to come together and discuss our shared goals for the future. 

“The success of this gathering demonstrated that there is a genuine desire in the area to advance the political agenda in order to enhance the region.

“It is the dedication and vision of our attendees, speakers and sponsors that will ultimately see the West Midlands achieve its full potential and become the prosperous and affluent region we know it can be.”

As the only independent, non-partisan think tank for the region, CNM has a mission to generate new research and ideas to help shape a ‘better’ region for people to live, study, invest, work and play in. 

The organisation has four core growth areas – ‘Devolution and Governance’, ‘Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’, ‘Environment, Transport and Infrastructure’, and ‘Globalising the West Midlands’ – and places an emphasis on improving the social fabric of the region and not just the economic performance of the Midlands.

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