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West Midlands Innovation Accelerator to Spark Growth and Innovation

The Universities of Birmingham and Aston – both BHP members – are to participate in the West Midlands Innovation Accelerator announced this week by the West Midlands Combined Authority.

Designed to bolster the region’s innovation and R&D capability, as well as sparking commercial growth and investment, the Innovation Accelerator will receive a share of a new £100m fund from Innovate UK. This fund, first announced in the Government’s 2022 Levelling up White Paper, will be divided across three regional Innovation Accelerators over the next two years.

Aims of the Innovation Accelerator include accelerating the region’s engineering research & development, boosting inward investment, and reinforcing the West Midlands’ position at the frontier of the UK innovation revolution by enabling businesses to develop new products, processes and services.

The West Midlands Innovation Board has targeted investment on five projects enabling new solutions around Medical and Clean Technologies.

The University of Birmingham is leading the 6D Innovation Accelerator project, bringing together key stakeholders (universities, hospitals, industry and government-funded ‘Catapults’ for manufacturing innovation) to supercharge the region’s ability to accelerate new health and medical technologies. Its aim is to deliver a streamlined programme to help companies navigate “pinch-points” in the process of medical translation.

Professor Liam Grover, of the University of Birmingham’s Healthcare Technologies Institute, said: “Taking health and medical technologies into the market place can be a minefield of regulatory, funding and management issues. We aim to develop clear processes that will help companies navigate the obstacles and deliver marketable products that will enhance people’s lives.”

The 6Ds are:

      • Diagnosis of company needs
      • Definition of major NHS and industry-based challenges to target
      • Development and refinement of prototype products
      • Deployment of innovation in real-world NHS settings
      • Diversification of supply chains, skills and services
      • Demonstration of significant economic and health benefits for our region

The University is also playing a key role in a second project, Digital Innovation Transformative Change (DIATOMIC), led by Connected Places Catapult, the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport and place leadership. Partners include Aston University, Birmingham City Council, Birmingham City University, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce.

DIATOMIC will accelerate place-based innovation in the West Midlands. Harnessing the region’s existing international relationships and through a series of targeted initiatives, it will focus on growing the region’s clean tech, health tech and med tech markets.

Through DIATOMIC civic leaders will be able to set innovation challenges, support local SMEs to respond and benefit the community through the UK’s first inclusive innovation hub. It will also promote the use of data to enable better place-based decision making and develop an impact assessment toolkit.

Announcing the Innovation Accelerator, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, and chair of the WMCA, said: “I’m delighted to see the Innovation Accelerator fund finally land in our region which will unlock a further £150m of private sector co-investment. The funding will inject momentum into the delivery of the West Midlands Plan for Growth which sets out how we will unlock hundreds of thousands of new jobs and be home to major global companies in this decade.

“One of my key mayoral missions is to restore our status as the fastest growing region outside of London – just as we were pre-pandemic. Innovation is central to achieving that mission.

“We’re already a leading region for UK innovation when it comes to automotive and aerospace – with every £1 of Government spending for Research & Development translating in to £4 of business investment. This latest news will help us to build on our progress to date – with Government’s forthcoming Trailblazer Devolution Deal and proposed programme of Investment Zones set to usher in exciting times ahead.”

Minister of State for Science Research & Innovation at DSIT George Freeman said:  “Through Record investment in our UK science, technology & innovation sectors, the Innovation Economy is creating new career opportunities in the campuses, clusters & companies of tomorrow.

“That’s why UKRI is putting clusters at the heart of its of its £25bn budget up to 2025, and why our £100m Innovation Accelerator Program provides £33m each to 3 emerging clusters to attract industrial co-investment and become major, globally competitive centres for research and innovation.

“The West Midlands Cluster is becoming a world class hub of R+D in med tech and clean tech.

“I’m delighted that local leaders have come together to use our £33m to launch such exciting programs with industry and Universities in this exciting area.”