Innovative firms in the West Midlands should be targeting lucrative health and defence budgets, according to a visiting Minister.
The Minister for Science and Innovation, Ian Pearson MP, told an audience at Birmingham’s Millennium Point that the region’s innovators had made great strides in the last decade, but there was still work to be done.
He said Government Departments, responsible for procurement of £150 billion a year, were always looking for innovative solutions to problems.
“We could be talking about equipment for the Ministry of Defence or the challenge of tackling hospital acquired infections,” he said.
Mr Pearson said progress was being made in the region, drawing comparisons with research he undertook in the 1990s.
“A decade ago we were way off the pace, but now we are in a stronger position. Advantage West Midlands has been pioneering technology growth, with great examples such as the Serious Games Institute in Coventry doing tremendous work.”
Innovation Nation was organised by Advantage West Midlands to give Dudley South MP Mr Pearson a chance to learn more about innovation in the region, while revealing what the new Government White paper will mean for the West Midlands.
He said he was keen to dispel the idea that innovation exists only within laboratories.
“This is not about men in white coats doing research. Two-thirds of innovation does not occur within research and development. It’s about the exploitation of new ideas and can involve all of us.”
AWM chief executive Mick Laverty said innovation was vital to the regional economy.
“Boosting innovation is a way of addressing the West Midlands economic output gap,” he said.
“We’re proud to be part of Innovation Nation and believe innovation is a great way of driving the economy as well as improving quality of life.
“The hydrogen fuel cell research being carried out by Birmingham and Warwick universities and the world class research being conducted by Aston and Worcester universities through their ocular allergy project are fine examples of this work.”
The Minister also received presentations from Birmingham Science City, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Medilink West Midlands among others.
Mr Pearson heard about the INDEX voucher scheme, which was set up by Advantage West Midlands and Aston University to encourage businesses to work with universities and take up new technologies.
The scheme is being rolled out nationwide after a successful pilot in the West Midlands.
Birmingham wigmaker Vivean Pomell, from Brynels Wigs in Edgbaston, took part in the scheme developing an innovative new material for the manufacture of wigs to make them environmentally friendly and user friendly for clients who have undergone the trauma of hair loss.