Mayor backs Government’s digital support for West Midlands

Multi-million pound boost for region’s digital technology.

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, has backed a package of proposals announced by the Government on Wednesday to boost innovation and tech industries.

The announcement of a range of measures by the Prime Minister and Chancellor includes the creation of a new technology hub in Birmingham, increasing the number of tech visas available to West Midlands businesses and a £2 million pilot scheme to provide high-speed broadband in Coventry and Warwickshire. These have been part of negotiations between the West Midlands Combined Authority and Government ahead of Budget next week.

In addition, a number of national measures have been announced including:
· Doubling to 2,000 the number of visas available to the brightest and best talent from around the world, including in digital technology
· An investment of £21 million to expand Tech City UK into a nationwide network called Tech Nation, to accelerate the growth of the digital tech sector across the country
· A new £20 million fund to help public services take advantage of UK expertise in innovative technologies
· Helping roll out a programme of support to help young people stay safe online

The Mayor said: “Traditionally, we talked about digital and technology as a standalone sector within the economy. Now, it’s the golden thread which runs through all of our sectors, from manufacturing to life sciences.

“This is how our region will lead the world in the development of connected and autonomous vehicles, changing the way people connect and at the same time combating both congestion and air pollution, and this is how we will cement our position as a global centre for life-saving transitional medicine trials.

“These and other emerging industries – and indeed industries we don’t even know about yet – will provide the jobs of the future in the West Midlands. That’s why the Government’s support for our requests is so encouraging. We recently hosted Digital Minister Matt Hancock here in the West Midlands and outlined our digital strategy and how the Government could help us.

“In terms of the national measures, I am really excited about the Tech Nation funding which will see a hub created in Birmingham with the expectation that in the UK some 40,000 entrepreneurs and 4,000 start-ups will be supported, and the £20m fund to help public services take advantage of UK expertise links to the WMCA’s UrbanTech Challenge which we launched to get link up tech start-ups and some of the big challenges facing local Government.

“On a more local basis, I am particularly pleased that Coventry and Warwickshire will be one of the five pilot areas to benefit from the pilot voucher scheme to help pay for gold-standard, full-fibre gigabit connections. This will help revolutionise our digital infrastructure and it is great news that the east of our region is trialling this.”