Birmingham needs to invest millions of pounds in attracting a leading international technology company to spearhead its new manufacturing revolution, a leading consultant has claimed.
Gordon Cowie, executive director of business development consultancy Calkas, said public and private sector investment in bringing a 'new technology' world leader to the city would give it the opportunity to re-establish itself as the "workshop of the world".
"Manufacturing in 'new technology' applications, such as bio and nano materials, could conceivably give our city and our region an opportunity to re-establish a pre-eminence in manufacturing. This assumes, of course, that 'manufacturing' is something we want to do," he said.
Calkas assisted the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCI) in its work to plot a business road map for the city over the next decade by outlining the key drivers of change that will need to be considered.
Mr Cowie told The Post: "My fear is that we have all these places dotted around which are designated as technology parks and public money is being spent on lots of things in little pockets. But how much of that will be sustainable?
"If we spent a big part of that money on trying to attract an American or Japanese world leader to set up a base in our area, there would be a number of benefits. Their suppliers would move here and there would also be opportunities for our existing companies, not to mention employment."
The BCI carried out a survey of its 4,000 members to plot the road map. Among concerns raised was that an obsession with "terminally ill" traditional manufacturing was jeopardising Birmingham's development and that it risked being left behind by rival cities unless it ditched its "over affection" with saving manufacturing jobs that were doomed.
The plan, concentrating on putting forward a common view of the future on key topics such as manufacturing, science and technology, will be presented to local government decision-makers later this year.
Mr Cowie, who gave a presentation about key drivers of change to members of the BCI, said: "The challenge now is to take today's technologies and exploit them to create a new workshop to replace the one that was so spectacularly successful but that has reached its end."
He said workers trained in manufacturing could transfer those skills to new technology, but warned it would be easier to declare Birmingham as a new technology city than to deliver it.
"If you want to shift the infrastructure then you have to take a big step," he said. "There is also the problem of brain drain - people come here from around the world to study at our universities, and then they go home again.
"In many cases there are no opportunities for them to use their skills in our region. We need to encourage them to stay. The best tends to attract the best. They create opportunities attract and help retain talent and attract to the area other businesses in the supply chain."