How our region’s advanced manufacturing businesses have coped with EU Exit and Covid-19

Date posted: August 16, 2021
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A woman in a reflective jacket and yellow hard hat looks at the camera with her arms folded, she is wearing a blue medical face mask

A new report commissioned by the Midlands Engine Observatory and undertaken by the Centre for Brexit Studies at Birmingham City University examines the threats of the pandemic and EU Exit on our region’s advanced manufacturing supply chains.

Based on interviews, the report finds that skills and shifting to a green economy are the key concerns for automotive, aerospace, and medical sectors.

Discussions with smaller organisations also highlighted a struggle to adapt to the new requirements of post-Brexit trading whereas larger firms have found that greater capacity to handle paperwork has been beneficial.

Other key issues affecting our region’s businesses include attracting the right workforce, overcoming outdated infrastructure and diversifying products and services to better cope with turbulence in individual markets.

The report recommends several policies to support the growth of our region’s supply chains after Brexit, helping businesses in the Midlands to overcome new and existing challenges.

The report’s recommendations for Government include enhanced but targeted infrastructure investment while businesses are encouraged to tackle the twin challenges of upskilling and product innovation.

In both cases, universities and other education providers have a role to play in creating a highly-skilled workforce capable of meeting future challenges through the provision of lifelong learning for our region’s residents.

This could be provided by education institutes able to provide modules for both major firms and SMEs and foster the exchanging of ideas between sectors that rarely collaborate.

Another future solution to reducing the fragility of our supply chains is the creation of major ‘anchor firms’ around which a host of smaller firms can cluster to provide services.

Key examples of this clustering effect in the Midlands include the Automotive sector in the West Midlands and the East Midlands Aerospace sector.

Improved physical infrastructure such as road building and improved digital connectivity through 5G rollout is likely to stimulate further growth within these sectors, improving their resilience to external pressures such as a change in trading conditions or a pandemic.

Examples of industries that could benefit from an anchor firm in our region include electric vehicles and other green growth initiatives.

This research is just the latest in a series of reports Midlands Engine has commissioned looking specifically at supply chains.

Each provides useful insights into how prepared and resilient the supply chains are across the different sectors in focus including low carbon, health and food manufacture.

For the latest on our region, subscribe to Midlands Matters, the official newsletter of the Midlands Engine.
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