The new chairman of Advantage West Midlands’ enterprise board has warned that decision-makers are going to have to work smarter to cut down its £15 billion output gap.
David Rowe, chief executive of the University of Warwick Science Park, has taken over the chairmanship from Norman Price, and will be charged with providing leadership and innovative thinking to help to drive the region forward.
The qualified electronic engineer is keen to strengthen public and private sector partnerships, harness commercial relationships between academia and business and develop a strategy that will support both traditional sectors and new industries, such as healthcare technologies, low carbon manufacturing and creative.
“This is an important time for the enterprise board with potential cuts in public spending meaning that we have to work even smarter to deliver maximum impact to the region’s entrepreneurs and established businesses,” Mr Rowe said.
“I’m tired of people focusing on what the West Midlands hasn’t got and a lot of our time will be focused on working to our strengths and promoting all the good things about our region,” Mr Rowe added.
Mr Rowe was chosen for the key role after impressing by converting what was a derelict piece of land into the University of Warwick Science Park, a 40-acre home to more than 150 high-tech businesses employing in excess of 2000 people.
His approach to creating a supportive environment where specialist advice and access to finance is readily available was recognised with a Queen’s Award in 2006 and he currently holds a number of positions including chairman of the West Midlands Business Start Up and Incubation Committee and member of the Board of the UK Science Park Association.
Mr Rowe, who has worked for Marconi, Chrysler UK and the UK Atomic Energy Authority, added: “We’re just below the UK average when it comes to number of start-ups.
“Getting more companies to launch is not necessarily the solution to the problem. I’d prefer to look at the situation differently and to increase the survival chances of new starts, so we have younger businesses growing and providing sustainable employment opportunities.”
He added: “A new paper released by the Government – New industries, New Jobs – will prove a careful balancing act for our business support agencies looking to embrace growth sectors without neglecting traditional industries.
“We need to make sure we support this development, but, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, why not look at supporting our existing businesses to move towards these new areas.”
The enterprise board brings together a number of key organisations and private sector business leaders to advise AWM on enterprise issues.
It originally started life as a source of advice and guidance to Business Link, but the remit has grown considerably to include the creation of four centres of expertise aimed specifically at supporting young people, minority ethnic, women and social enterprises.
The board now effectively helps to shape and lead on innovative new business support and enterprise policies, all geared towards increasing the competiveness and productivity of the West Midlands.
Debra Blisson, director of business support and enterprise at AWM, said: “David will be a dynamic, inspirational chair who understands the regional economy and has a passion for bringing enterprise to the fore, whether that be in increasing starts-ups or encouraging companies, universities or employees to be more entrepreneurial in what they do.
“He’s been involved in the enterprise board for three years now and this experience will be crucial in shaping its ability to influence future regional economic enterprise strategy.”