A delegation of Swedish academics and business leaders has chosen the West Midlands as its role model for innovation and entrepreneurship after completing a tour of the region.
The visitors, from the Vastra Gotaland region of southern Sweden, were invited to explore a number of science and business projects supported by regional development agency Advantage West Midlands.
The group, visiting Birmingham as part of their European-funded Leonardo tour, enjoyed a trip along the canal in Birmingham University’s hydrogen-powered barge to Brindley Place, as well as learning about Warwick and Birmingham Universities’ hydrogen research project.
During the week-long trip, the guests also visited Millennium Point, Aston University’s ocular allergy project and Academy of Life Sciences, education-led regeneration projects in Stoke-on-Trent, Keele University’s Science Park, and Coventry and Warwick universities.
Dr Mats Lundqvist, director of the Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship in Sweden, said he was impressed by the level of organised collaboration between West Midlands’ universities through funded projects such as Birmingham Science City.
“Informal collaboration often takes place, but structured collaboration is more challenging. Of particular interest were activities such as the INDEX voucher programmes and SPEED support for student entrepreneurship which we will try to emulate in Sweden,” he said. “The West Midlands for us is a role model in supporting university initiatives around both broad education-based entrepreneurship as well as research-linked innovation development.”
Andrew Todd, strategic technology transfer officer at Advantage West Midlands, had visited Sweden on a similar tour last year.
“The Leonardo tour to Sweden was an opportunity to look at how another European region is addressing the challenges of developing their economy and to build on the already successful partnership we have with the Vastra-Gotaland region,” he said.
“It was also a chance for a group from the West Midlands to share our own ideas on how we can connect with the region’s science base and develop Birmingham Science City.”
Birmingham was designated a Science City by the Government in 2005 – a role which aims to boost economic growth and improve quality of life in the city and across the region.
Experts from the region’s universities and industries are sharing knowledge and skills to provide a stronger economy and cleaner environment, focusing on themes such as lowering carbon output and developing digital and WiFi technology and innovative healthcare.
Scientists are already making their mark in the region thanks to an £80 million funding package from AWM.
AWM chairman Nick Paul said: “Birmingham Science City is proving to be an excellent opportunity to develop and use science and technology to improve quality of life.
“Projects such as hydrogen fuel development show us how we can be at the forefront of exciting world class research while improving our environment for future generations.”
The Regional Economic Strategy and Regional Innovation Strategy focus on the West Midlands’ need to bridge the gap between university research and industry.