Local Further Education colleges in the West Midlands to get £2.4m Innovate UK funding

We are excited to be a part of this innovative project and we look forward to working with Innovate UK, and other colleges across the West Midlands.

Local further education colleges will receive £2.4m Innovate UK funding, helping to launch new nationally leading technology adoption centres.

Innovate UK has today announced the recipients of the Further Education Innovation Fund (FEIF) – a £7.3 million investment that will enable them to create Local Innovation Centres, of which £2.4m will go to colleges in the West Midlands.

On 11th March, at the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation, businesses will be able to learn about how the centres will play an important part of the region’s drive to be a global leader in advanced manufacturing and engineering technologies such as electric vehicles and industry 4.0. Businesses can register here Innovate Local – West Midlands – Innovate UK KTN (ktn-uk.org)

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) worked with Innovate UK to co-design this trailblazing approach to strengthening the role of further education colleges in technology adoption and training for small businesses.

This is another example of the WMCA’s innovative new approach to working in deep partnership with Innovate UK to co-design new approaches to raise up innovation capacity and capability in our region and follows the announcement last year of the partnership between Innovate UK and the WMCA to boost innovation.

Each Local Innovation Centre will tailor its approach to the specific needs of local businesses. In the West Midlands region, the recipients are:

  • The Birmingham Innovation Centre Partnership, led by BMet, and including all six colleges in the Birmingham area, targets digital technology adoption within SMEs in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, engineering, dental, and construction.
  • The Black Country Innovation Service, led by Walsall College and including all five colleges in the Black Country, will be a new anchor centre for manufacturing and engineering businesses to pivot into sunrise industries like electric vehicles and heat-pumps.
  • Driving SME Innovation in the West Midlands, led by Coventry College and including three colleges across Coventry and Warwickshire, will drive business innovation in net-zero technologies including electric vehicle supply chain building.

Colleges will establish Local Innovation Centres that will become catalysts for local business growth by engaging with businesses in key sectors of their local economies to help them understand how they can adopt innovations in technologies, business models and processes.

Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, Andy Street, said: “The West Midlands has a long and proud tradition of innovation. The action plan I launched with Innovate UK last July set out to harness that spirit of entrepreneurship.

“We’re already a leading region for UK innovation when it comes to automotive and aerospace and our further education colleges are becoming increasingly important to our wider economy, supporting our drive for new cutting-edge technologies. They often exist in communities where universities and Catapult centres don’t, and so this is a very forward-thinking approach by Innovate UK to pilot the role they can play in working with local businesses to adopt new advanced technologies.

“Our further education colleges have strong links to local businesses, typically small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and play a big part in supporting local skills needs, supporting apprenticeships, facilitating work placements, and co-producing courses with businesses.

“I welcome this investment from Innovate UK which will help to drive the skills provision as we forge an economy fit for the 21st century in the months and years ahead.”

Jatinder Sharma CBE, Principal and Chief Executive at Walsall College said: “Further education colleges are ideally placed to spearhead these Local Innovation Centres and support small businesses with the skills to establish a low carbon economy.

“This funding allows us to engage with more employers giving them access to skills and development resources in new technologies such as solar panel and photovoltaic systems, electric vehicle charging and air source heat pumps as well as encourage innovation and growth within the renewable energy and advanced manufacturing sectors.”

Cllr George Duggins, WMCA portfolio holder for productivity and skills and leader of Coventry City Council, said: “This Innovate UK funding is great news for our region. Leading in innovation will mean that further education colleges will help contribute to innovation in our region while boosting productivity levels and stimulating our economic growth. In turn, this will help create high-quality jobs and enrich the lives of local communities.

Corin Crane, chief executive of Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is fantastic to see this £2.4m funding from Innovate UK awarded to our local FE providers, right across the West Midlands. It is essential to ensure we have an economy that has the right skills to equip us for the future.

“When we undertook research for the Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP), it clearly highlighted how the digital skills gaps in businesses are holding them back from achieving their objectives. The world is only becoming more digital, and more technology focused, and the Local Innovation Centres will help more businesses to access the knowledge needed to remain competitive and profitable.

“The net zero agenda is high on the list of priorities for many businesses and so, locally here in Coventry & Warwickshire, it is good to see that net zero, battery technology and electric vehicles will be at the heart of the work undertaken.”

You can find out more about the Innovate UK funding and how it will benefit the West Midlands region by attending an upcoming event – register Innovate Local – West Midlands – Innovate UK KTN (ktn-uk.org)