Innovation Minister David Lammy said the future looks bright for West Midlands manufacturing after a visit to a cutting edge research hub.

The Minister of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills said the region remains at the forefront of production during a private visit to WMG – formerly Warwick Manufacturing Group.

He was in the region after unveiling a new government-backed £27 million scheme which will see engineers at Jaguar Land Rover offered the chance to study for masters degrees.

Business leaders say competent manufacturing graduates will be crucial to rebuild ailing production firms that have shed jobs during the recession.

Mr Lammy said: “The manufacturing sector in this region is hugely important, but the real thing to remember is it is hi-tech manufacturing. This is the manufacturing of the future. It is that that means there is a secure manufacturing base in Britain going forward.

“I really hope that, not withstanding this economic downturn, small and medium-sized businesses in the region will be engaged with universities because for people to have employability skills they are going to need that.”

The 36-year-old Tottenham MP toured WMG’s new digital lab at the University of Warwick yesterday, along with its founder Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya.

Across the West Midlands, high value manufacturing employs 330,000 people and accounts for 14 per cent of total employment, and Mr Lammy said it remained vital.

Lord Bhattacharyya said: “At the moment, the whole world is handicapped. What we need to do is capitalise on our competitive strength, which is formidable in the Midlands.”

Meanwhile, engineers from JLR could be among those to benefit from a new Higher Education Funding Council for England project to help businesses and fight an expected drop in graduate jobs.

A total of £27 million has been provided, which will be matched by universities, and is intended to offer help to 50,000 people and 11,700 firms.

Brunel University, in London, will receive £499,002 for its programme focusing on the manufacturing and automotive sectors, which includes offering masters degrees to JLR engineers.

Birmingham City University has been awarded £330,000, which it plans to use in sectors severely affected by the downturn, including aerospace, automotive, construction and steel-making.