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Insights from the Midlands Economic Forum 2024

This month, our Operations Director, Parveen Mehta, attended the Midlands Economic Forum to gain fresh perspectives on the region's economic future. The Summit brought together over 500 key stakeholders from academia, business, and government at the VOX Conference Centre in Birmingham.

With influential speakers like West Midlands Mayor Richard Parker and Derby Mayor Alan Graves, the forum provided a platform to discuss the strategic priorities that will shape the Midlands’ economic outlook.

Parveen’s participation allowed him to absorb the latest insights and trends that will influence our region's growth and development.

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Parveen at The Midlands Economic Summit 2024. Photographer - Edwin Ladd. 

Here are Parveen’s Key Takeaways from the Summit

1. Entrepreneurs’ Call to Action:

Entrepreneurs stressed the need for teams to return to the office. They believe being physically present fosters innovation and maintains a lively, productive work environment. While remote work has its benefits, the energy and creativity of in-person collaboration are irreplaceable.

2. Impact of Low Cost and Efficiency:

There was a critical discussion on how the relentless pursuit of low costs and efficiency affects the supply chain, especially for small SMEs. Often working with tight margins, these businesses find it challenging to innovate and grow under such pressures.

3. Balancing Innovation and Efficiency:

The event highlighted that focusing solely on cost-cutting and efficiency can hinder innovation. This trade-off can affect long-term growth and competitiveness. Businesses need to balance efficiency with encouraging innovative thinking.

4. Addressing Future Needs:

While businesses are increasingly aware of the next generation’s wants, there’s a disconnect in aligning these with business needs. It’s crucial to bridge this gap and ensure that future workforce expectations match what businesses require.

5. Apprenticeship System Challenges:

The forum also discussed the apprenticeship crisis. With current immigration policies and a shortage of skilled labour outside London and the Southeast, the UK’s competitive edge is at risk. Revitalising vocational training is essential to address these gaps.

6. Skill Shortages:

There is a persistent issue of skills shortages in the region, highlighting the need for targeted education and training programs. Addressing these gaps is crucial for sustaining economic growth and maintaining a competitive workforce.

7. Logistics and Food Production Hub:

The West Midlands was identified as a prime location for logistics and food production. This region offers substantial opportunities for growth in these sectors, which are critical to both the local and national economy.

8. Brexit Challenges:

Brexit has introduced new complexities and increased the cost of trade. SMEs, in particular, have been hit hard, facing challenges in accessing larger markets within the EU. Overcoming these obstacles will be key for future economic resilience.

9. Regional Specialisations:

The forum stressed the importance of regions building on their existing skills to develop industries. Derby’s expertise in small nuclear reactors with Rolls-Royce and Bristol’s strength in aerospace are examples of how regions can develop specialised economic strengths.

10. Value of Data:

Data was highlighted as increasingly valuable, often referred to as the new “oil.” It is traded and used to build future AI models, making data management and strategy crucial for businesses.
Reflecting on the Forum

Parveen commented on his time at the event, saying, “The Midlands Economic Forum was an eye-opening experience for me. The discussions I was involved in highlighted the need for innovation, skills development, and strategic regional planning. It’s clear that our future success will depend on balancing efficiency, focusing strongly on innovation and sustainability.”

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