The West Midlands has retained its position as the UK’s leading region outside London and the South East for attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), according to the Department for International Trade’s (DIT) latest official figures.

A total of 157 new FDI projects were recorded in the region during the 2019/20 financial year, representing the strongest performance of all UK regions outside of London and the South East, accounting for 8% of the UK’s total projects. The number of new, associated jobs created totaled 3,883 and 2,220 additional jobs were safeguarded.

Matt Hammond, Chairman of the West Midlands Growth Company, the region’s official inward investment agency, commented:

The latest figures from the Department for International Trade reinforce the West Midlands as one of the UK’s most important regions to drive economic growth. Despite a period of unprecedented trade disruption globally, the region’s inherent industry strengths and critical mass of talent have assured our ability to successfully compete on the world stage.

“We are proactively showcasing the region’s expertise in future mobility, digital healthcare and sustainable construction to promote our leading role in a more resilient, inclusive and decarbonised future. Additionally, the region’s hosting of major global events in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games and Coventry City of Culture 2021 will be fully maximised as part of our enhanced investment strategy targeting the Commonwealth markets.

“It is clear the post-COVID-19 downturn in many areas of cross-border investment will continue into next year. Our revised FDI strategy therefore needs to consider the West Midlands’ most vulnerable target sectors in addition to how it will grow its most buoyant”

The leading sectors for attracting investment were advanced manufacturing, automotive, software and computer services and business and consumer services. Notable investment projects in the region included Birmingham investor Microland, India’s leading IT transformation company; ACSYS Lasertechnik in Coventry, a German laser systems and processes provider and Swedish firm Assa Abloy in the Black Country, the world’s largest lock manufacturer.

The West Midlands’ inward investment strategy for the 2020/21 financial year will see the continued targeting of the region’s high-growth industries that include Financial and Professional Services, Property and Construction, FinTech, Digital Technology and Games, Transport Technologies, Energy Storage and MedTech. The strategy also incorporates a shift towards the region’s immediate priority areas, including:

  • Responding to the needs of current investors to safeguard existing employment
  • Supporting the West Midlands’ 10 priorities for post-COVID-19 economic recovery
  • Deploying business engagement activity to assist policy intervention recommendations that improve the regional investment environment
  • Maximising opportunities for international trade through the 2022 Commonwealth Games and West Midlands India Partnership (WMIP)

The West Midlands’ £3.2bn economic recovery blueprint aims to support the region’s investment pipeline, with a focus on accelerating local infrastructure development as well as digital and transport connectivity. The proposal earmarks £650m for the regeneration of brownfield land, £95m for the acceleration of the HS2 Interchange Station and £44m to enhance the region’s 5G digital connectivity.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, commented:

“The region’s distinctive set of unique assets provide the essential preconditions for an effective long-term economic recovery. The West Midlands’ latest foreign investment performance is a clear signal of this.

“Our region’s recovery blueprint has already been backed by £150m in Government funding, which will help to instill even greater confidence in our region, unlocking a wave of additional, new investment.

“From harnessing our battery manufacturing strengths through a proposed West Midlands gigafactory, to bringing forward investment for new electric vehicle infrastructure and the National Brownfield Institute - our recovery plan identifies further opportunities to level up the UK economy and remain globally competitive in a post-pandemic world”.

Central to both the region’s recovery and investment plans is accelerating and maximising the benefits of key milestones such as HS2 and the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The major global sporting event will form a key vehicle to deepening economic relationships with key Commonwealth markets including India, Canada and Australia.

Since the onset of COVID-19, WMGC in partnership with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the region’s three Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) - Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, Black Country LEP and Coventry and Warwickshire LEP - has also engaged regional businesses and stakeholders to aid policy recommendations to support the region’s post-pandemic investment landscape.

Government asks from the region included interventions to support vulnerable businesses with supply chain risk and disruption, funding to accelerate major infrastructure schemes and support to maximise opportunities for the West Midlands as an onshore alternative.

Hammond, added:

“The pandemic has highlighted decentralisation away from London as fundamental to the social and economic health of our country. Our investment strategy – to which Domestic Direct Investment (DDI) is key – will build on the success of attracting Homes England to Coventry and HM Revenue & Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions to Birmingham, to reinforce the West Midlands as an obvious location for Non-Departmental Public Bodies. The region has a strong investment case moving forward”.