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

Engineering courses are popular at Walsall College, one of the colleges benefitting from the Innovate UK funding.

Innovate UK has today announced the recipients of the Further Education Innovation Fund - 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 the 11 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 at online.

The West Midlands Combined Authority 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.

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 Birmingham Metropolitan College, 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 for the benefit of our businesses and communities.

“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 added: “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.”


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