Birmingham Made Me – innovation needs to reach outskirts


At a Birmingham Made Me panel discussion on “the regional sustainable economic model” today I had one key point to make. Alongside other MPs, business leaders and policy makers, I wanted to stress that the exciting creative economy emerging in Birmingham must unlock growth and innovation across the city – and reach places like Northfield, Longbridge and Frankley if we are all to prosper.

Why? Firstly, becuase the current regional economic model is not sustainable. We have a huge shortage of jobs in Birmingham – nearly 50,000 people (10%) are unemployed in the city. That’s double the UK average. In the Northfield area, the problem of long term youth unemployment is severe. The number of 16-64 year olds out of work for over a year is now 290, 200 more than two years ago. 

We have been hit hard by the recession and the Tory-led Government’s failed austerity policy. But problems are deeper – in a city founded on industry and manufacturing, the decline of these areas has meant there is a real lack of quality jobs and opportunity for young people in the area.

It’s not all doom and gloom. We have a huge amount of potential, and are one of the youngest cities in Europe. New initiatives such as Youth Employment Commission, Eastside, and the Advanced Manufacturing Hub are all huge steps forward. There are new opportunities emerging in engineering and manufacturing, and the digital, design and creative industries on display at Birmingham Made Me.

But Birmingham’s growth won’t be sustainable if we only focus on the city centre. We need to make sure no area is left behind, and link growth and innovation across the entire region. This requires joined up thinking within and across sectors.

Just one example is in the car industry. It is right that we applaud and back the highly successful Jaguar Land Rover who have proved to be such a positive corporate citizen for our region as well as a key economic driver. But we also need to do far more to develop the potential of Shanghai Automotive’s location of its European  R&D Centre in Longbridge, as well as its base for the production of MGs. They can both help to foster Birmingham’s growing design community, and the advanced manufacturing skills being developed within numerous colleges and universities in the area.

I am working on a new jobs initiative to ensure the Northfield area is central to the economic innovation unfolding in Birmingham. Watch this space!

Find out more about Birmingham Made Me here.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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