Birmingham has an urban population of 977,100 inhabitants, 44% under 30 years. It is an education hub in England with 56,000 students at 3 universities. Urban regeneration has been a kex area for the city, mobilising more that £500 million of European Union investment since 1980s. This has lifted up to £1.3 billion funding from private sector. The city has more than 23 million business visitors per year. EU funds (ERDF, ESF) focuse on up-skilling labour force, tackling long-term unemployment and inequality as well as tackling areas of industrial decline (ERDF). Examples of ERDF investments include the the Aston Science Park, Millennium Point and the International Congress Centre. The City Council ensures close partnerships with various groups and organisations as key requirement for successful investments. Birmingham is also partner of the project “PURPLE – Peri Urban Regions Platform Europe”, an EU-funded cooperation between peri-urban areas across Europe that aims to achieve a balanced territorial development in Europe.
According to the City Council, Birmingham attracted since 2003 more Chinese investment projects than any other UK city (after London), receiving £80m in capital investment and creating around 600 jobs. Since 2004, the number of Chinese students in Birmingham has increased from 2,500 to approx. 4,000 today. Birmingham has managed to achieve 13 main Chinese investments to the city in the last ten years, including Shanghai Automotive (SAIC), owner of MG Motors. Close relations to China are a strategic priority for the City Council, leading to high-ranking political delegations, business and cultural exchange.
The West Midlands have two large conurbations (Birmingham/Black County/ Wolverhampton/ Solihull/ Coventry) and North Staffordshire (Stoke). It has also rural areas to the West, North and South. The West Midlands were historically the centre of manufacturing (industrial revolution). Today, manufacturing is still important although reduced (employment: 1996 22%; 2012 11% (285,500 people). It has a GVA of £11.83 billion (2009) or 13.1% of West Midlands, higher than the national GVA. The key economic areas including transport equipment, food, ceramics and aerospace. The region has a total population of 5.6 million (8.9% of UK), and Birmingham is largest local authority with population 1.1 million. The total EU funding budget for the WM approximately (2007-2013) of £770 million, including £400 million European Social Fund (ESF), £300 million European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and £70 million European, Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). For the 2014-20 period, national programmes are managed by local authorities with the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) at the centre.
The West Midlands European Service, on behalf of the West Midlands, has been working with a number of Chinese regions since May 2013 and has developed strong links with representatives of China’s National Development & Reform Commission (NDRC) in the cities of Tianjin & Guangzhou. These links were initially fostered by DG REGIO’s CETREGIO (Chinese-European Training on Regional Development) and were strengthen through the follow-up programme World Cities.
The purpose of becoming involved in the CETREGIO and the World Cities Programmes has been to develop opportunities for collaboration between the West Midlands and Guangzhou and Tianjin around the following objectives:
- Inward Investment: There are possibilities for investment in infrastructure
- Business to Business Opportunities: Develop two way business to business opportunities particularly in the SME and 2nd and 3rd tier companies
- Research, Technology Development & Innovation Opportunities: There is an opportunity to develop opportunities (business support, incubation, start-up etc.) with Chinese companies, universities and research organisations
- Professional training, student exchange, apprenticeships and education (FEI & HEI): There are opportunities for student recruitment, delivering degree courses, apprenticeships and undertaking staff exchange programmes
- Cultural Links: All 3 areas have distinct heritage and cultural offerings which if shared could further strengthen links
- Civic Cooperation: There are opportunities to strengthen civic cooperation between the political leaders on issues such as sustainable and inclusive urbanisation.
Contact: Mr Mark Schneider, Director.