The University of Warwick has joined a global consortium led by New York University (NYU) to set up a new applied sciences and engineering campus in the US city.
The bid, which is currently being considered by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is the latest attempt by the region to strengthen its links with the US, which is seen as key to the long-term health of the region’s economy.
Recent US investments to the region include more than £300 million by American property giant Hines, in addition to Kraft’s takeover of Bournville-based Cadbury in January 2010.
If approved, the ambitious bid will see Warwick become the first UK university to set up a campus in the US, as well as working alongside big-name firms including IBM, Cisco and Siemens.
A formal bid for a campus in downtown Brooklyn has just been submitted, with a decision expected in January.
University vice-chancellor Professor Nigel Thrift said the move would pave the way for new opportunities for the region.
Neil Rami, chief executive of Marketing Birmingham, said higher education institutions were key players in attracting global attention to the West Midlands.
He said: “This bid has got to be good for Birmingham and the West Midlands.
“We are an increasingly global environment, and competition for foreign direction and investment is now becoming more challenging.
“This means the relationship between the higher education sector and business is paramount to attract knowledge-based investment.”
American companies already have a firm footing in the West Midlands economy, with 240 US-owned businesses underpinning 60,000 jobs in Birmingham alone.
Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby last month took a three-day trip to Chicago, home to the Kraft headquarters, to look at ways to strengthen links between the two second cities.
The University of Warwick’s involvement with the consortium bid came after Mr Bloomberg last year called for universities to come forward with plans to build a new technology-focused education facility to strengthen its technology industries.
If approved, the campus, known as the Center for Urban Sciences and Progress (CUSP), would focus on areas including how cities could become cities around the world can more energy efficient, reduce congestion and pollution and enhance safety and security.
University of Warwick vice-chancellor Professor Nigel Thrift said: “This bid draws on Warwick’s long history of close working partnerships with businesses which range from multinationals like Jaguar Land Rover through to small and medium-sized firms, all of which benefit from access to the University’s technology and knowhow and apply that knowledge to create new jobs and expand their businesses.
“The aims of the Center for Urban Sciences and Progress are closely aligned with our research priorities of manufacturing, energy, food security and healthcare – all major themes with impacts on the lives of city dwellers in the 21st century.
“Through building links with the US, not only will we have the chance to make an impact on the economic development of New York but we will also provide new opportunities for the West Midlands economy.”
Warwick is not the only regional university branching out into other continents.
In September, the University of Birmingham opened a research and education centre in its sister city of Guangzhou, China, to collaborate on medical research projects including a large lifestyle large population study, infectious diseases and cognitive neuroscience. Birmingham, in partnership with the University of Nottingham, has also established links in South America by funding 20 PhD scholarships for Brazilian students and a £480,000 joint research investment fund with the São Paulo Research Foundation.
It also has well-established partnership with the city of Chicago, including a transatlantic summit between senior administrators from the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and Birmingham discussing effective higher education strategy, and cultural links to the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.
Birmingham City University is currently looking at a partnership with the SRM University, India, to allow third year SRM engineering students to study in Birmingham, and the university’s School of Law also works in partnership with the Universities of Pittsburgh and Oklahoma, as well as the College of Law, New England and the Law School, Boston.