Britain's embattled manufacturing industry can bounce back and compete on the global stage, a business conference has heard.

Dozens of companies and support groups gathered at the Boost Your Business conference organised by the Black Country Chamber of Commerce yesterday.

The meeting, which was held at the Dunstall Park Race Course, also saw the launch of a scheme to bridge the gap between the business world and education.

Meanwhile, businesswomen raised money for Breast Cancer UK by giving away their bras to local business Black Country Rag and Wiper.

Ken Purchase, MP for Wolverhampton North East, said: "It is well known we are going through a difficult year. Jaguar and Goodyear are struggling and having a hard time and we are seeing many small companies failing.

"But the narrative dismissing British manufacturing has been there since the start of the 20th century, with the rise of Germany and the United States, and then Japan in the post-war era, and now China, India and Brazil.

"That means we have to sharpen up our game and get into training and increase our investment.

"But we must also celebrate what we have here in the West Midlands, at the heart of the motorway network, which creates opportunities for us.

"We can also work with the universities, from Coventry and Warwick, to Wolverhampton and Stafford.

"It gives us an opportunity to do more with the resources we have."

Mr Purchase said there were positive signs in the service sector as well, while he called for stronger tests of corporate governance.

He said: "We also need to make sure that more people who run our businesses are competent to do so.

"In Europe you have to pass tests, and you have to be able to employ people responsibly."

The Black Country Young Professionals Network was launched at the event, with a new tier aimed at youngsters as young as 14.

The idea is the brainchild of the Black Country Asian Business Association and intends to support young business people from school age to 40.