A major new project for the automotive industry is to give West Midlands suppliers the opportunity to target more than £500 million of new business.
Eurozone - which has been launched as part of the long-running Accelerate initiative - aims to match existing capacity in the region with the requirements of car manufacturers and global 'tier one' suppliers looking to roll-out their new platforms and facelifts between now and 2010.
According to industry research, this means that contracts could be available on up to 260 models, including the introduction of the Volvo C70 and the new Peugeot 307.
Chris Hayes, project manager and the driving force behind the initiative, said: "The industry is moving closer every day and, with the well-documented pressure from foreign competitors, comes a whole host of opportunities for local manufacturers to explore and exploit.
"SMEs, by definition, do not have the resources or personnel to track down all of these new platforms and indeed have the know-how to forge relationships, which could turn into lucrative contracts."
He added: "Now, for the first time, they will be able to call upon a bank of dedicated research and in the long term a number of special trade trips to visit tier one suppliers in hotspots such as Slovakia and Poland."
Funded by regional development agency Advantage West Midlands and the Made in the West Midlands organisation, Eurozone is open to any automotive suppler in the region with an interest in securing new orders in the global marketplace. The programme, which has already enlisted support from the SMMT Industry Forum and Trade Partners UK, is now asking for companies to apply by filling in a questionnaire available from the firm's website (www.accelerate.uk.net).
This will help provide essential information on capacity and areas of expertise, while also indicating a wish list of countries that should be targeted.
"In addition to promoting the overall strength of the West Midlands as a whole, we are hoping that the project will contribute real tangibles like increased sales, joint ventures, potential acquisitions or even overseas facilities," said Mr Hayes.
"The support available is much more than just research and the odd trade trip. In essence, we are providing the complete package from language training through to export advice and potential funding for business develop-ment opportunities."
Eurozone is the latest in a series of specialist initiatives set up by Accelerate in response to the changing nature of the automotive industry. It reinforces the programme's determination to help the supply chain attack new markets and expand its expertise outside traditional areas.
Accelerate's Rachel Eade said: "Productivity and efficiency are just two of the major hurdles we've helped suppliers overcome during the past ten years in a bid to give the sector much-needed stability.
"Now is the time for these companies to use this solid platform and aggressively attack the new model introductions and facelifts expected between now and 2010."