A group from automotive firms in Belgium has travelled to the West Midlands to find out more about potential opportunities for inward investment and technology transfer from the region's auto sector.
Ben De Smit, trade and investment commissioner from the Belgian embassy, was among the ten government representatives and senior managers who took part in the tour which was organised by regional development agency Advantage West Midlands.
Belgium's automotive sector is seen as an emerging market from which the West Midlands' existing networks can tap into, creating jobs and investment in the region.
To highlight the region's strength in the engineering and automotive sectors, the two-day tour included visits to engineering centre of excellence MIRA and automotive manufacturers Jaguar and Ricardo.
The centrepiece of the tour was a visit to the Warwick Manufacturing Group, the £ 70 million partnership between AWM, the Premier Automotive Group and the University of Warwick set up to improve engineering skills and technology transfer.
There are already 30 Belgian-owned firms in the West Midlands and Advantage West Midlands, through the British Midlands banner, has an office in Brussels which is involved in trying to secure inward investment.
Richard Butler, international business marketing team leader at Advantage West Midlands, said: "The visit was a very worthwhile exercise as it provided invaluable links with a market which will offer considerable opportunities for both inward investment and technology transfer in the coming years.
"Technology holds the key to the future of both the West Midlands' and the Belgian automotive sectors and public-private sector partnerships such as the Warwick Manufacturing Group are absolutely vital.
"We look forward to working further with our Belgian counterparts on strengthening the links between the two regions."
Ben De Smit, of Flanders Investment and Trade, said: "We've been very impressed indeed with the automotive companies and facilities we've visited during our time here. "The West Midlands' automotive sector is in many ways similar to what we've got in Belgium - it is a mature sector which is working to improve itself by embracing the latest technology.
"This, I believe, is the only way we can compete with Eastern Europe, by staying at the cutting edge of automotive design and manufacturing and this visit has given us some excellent pointers on future working."