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David Eastwood
Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham

A powerful new economic observatory that will provide valuable data and insight was launched at the University of Birmingham.

The Midlands Economic Observatory is a partnership led by City-REDI  at the University of Birmingham and includes Nottingham Trent University, Black Country Consortium, SQW, and Cambridge Econometrics.

The Midlands Engine, a partnership of local and combined authorities, local enterprise partnerships, universities and businesses, has tasked the Observatory to initially deliver two flagship pieces of analysis:

  •  An Independent Economic Review of the Midlands
  • An assessment of the potential impact of Brexit on the different sectors across the region

The Observatory will also help the delivery of the strategic programmes within the Midlands Engine, including the transport arm Midlands Connect, trade and investment, skills, innovation and enterprise, and shaping places.

Another task of the observatory will be to provide a greater visibility of what is happening in the future for the Midlands, which is home to more than 10 million people and 800,000 businesses. This will allow businesses to be more ready to react in an agile way to environmental and technology changes.

Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, who is also the Government’s Midlands Engine Champion, said:

 “Collaboration is at the heart of delivering our modern Industrial Strategy and an economy which works for everyone, so I’m proud to see two of the region’s great universities come together with the Midlands Engine Partnership and other local experts to develop a rich picture of the Midlands economy.

“I look forward to seeing the analysis produced by the Observatory and continuing to work with our partners across the region to deliver our vision for a strong and prosperous Midlands Engine as we leave the European Union.”

Sir John Peace, Chairman of the Midlands Engine, added: “The Observatory will help us develop a crucial piece of the evidence base when we make decisions or present our case to Government.

“We need to develop a greater granular knowledge of our economy if we are to exploit our strengths in the Midlands and increase our productivity. Also it is important that we are ready for what lies ahead – the Observatory will provide us with this vital information at a sub-regional level.”

The Government published its Midlands Engine Strategy in March 2017. This was followed later in the year by the Partnership’s response – the Midlands Engine Vision for Growth.

In the Vision for Growth, the partnership committed to creating a Midlands Economic Observatory. The analysis will be designed to complement and add to the existing research that is being done.

Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Birmingham said: “The launch of this new Midland Engine Economic Observatory will provide a robust evidence base and develop granular knowledge of the Midlands economy to better understand the region’s economic strengths and inform policy choices.

“Our civic mission is a defining characteristic of the University of Birmingham, and it is at the very heart of how we work with and contribute to our city and region – through our research, through our teaching and through our interactions as an influential economic and social actor. I am therefore delighted that we are able to contribute our academic expertise and thought leadership to shape the future strategy for the Midlands Engine.”

Professor Edward Peck, Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, said: “We are pleased to be coming together with the University of Birmingham to work as part of an important alliance to support the region. This university-led partnership offers a breadth of expertise to the Midlands Engine which will influence and support strategic decision-making within the Midlands.”

Up-to-date analysis will allow the Midlands Engine Partnership to target resource in the most effective ways to present the evidence to Government on the best ways to accelerate growth in the £207bn economy.

The Midlands Engine:

The Midlands Engine is a partnership of local and combined authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, universities and businesses working together in new and transformative ways to invigorate the £207 billion Midlands economy

More information about the Midlands Engine and its priorities.

 The Midlands Economic Observatory:

The Midlands Economic Observatory is a partnership led by City-REDI at the University of Birmingham.

As a local partner, anchor institution and contributor to the work of the Midlands Engine, City-REDI and its partners are committed to helping Midlands Engine deliver its vision for growth. The approach taken by the observatory will embed a local delivery structure, and create a sustainable mechanism, to ensure high quality research on the economy which is measured by impact and change.

The observatory is a pan regional centre, building on a strong collaboration with Nottingham Trent University, ensuring balance across the region, with the University of Birmingham representing the network of Midlands Innovation Universities and Nottingham Trent University representing the Midlands Enterprise Universities. We are supported by the Black Country Consortium, SQW and Cambridge Econometrics to create a strong platform of collaboration which combines both academic rigour and cutting edge research with policy focused and high quality research.

Delivery Partner Information:

City-Region Economic Development Institute (City-REDI) – University of Birmingham

Based at the University of Birmingham, City-REDI is a research institute focussed on developing an academic understanding of major city regions across the globe to develop practical policy which better informs and influences regional and national economic growth policies. Recent work has focussed on supporting Midlands Engine, Local Enterprise Partnerships, and Combined Authorities, supporting the devolution of power through research and policy advice. City-REDI is embedded within a Triple A rated Business School, with EQUIS accreditation and a research led Russell Group university.

The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

Economic Strategy Research Bureau (ESRB) - Nottingham Trent University

Based in the AACSB and EQUIS accredited Nottingham Business School, the ESRB is a specialist economic research and consultancy unit. The ESRB provides a range of economic research, evaluation, and strategic consultancy services to public, private and third sector clients.  The core ESRB team have extensive experience of undertaking economic research, evaluation and related strategy development work in the Midlands.

Black Country Consortium (BCC)

Black Country Consortium Ltd offers a comprehensive understanding of the socio-economic challenges and opportunities in the Black Country and the wider West Midlands area. Our Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) provides rigorous, best in class, economic analysis across the three key SEP themes of people, businesses and place. This intelligence is used to inform different stages of the policy-making cycle, including: critical assessment of the socioeconomic challenges of the area; evidence-based strategy and policy development; project and programme design and feasibility; programme management; and monitoring and evaluation.


SQW is one of the UK’s leading economic development consultancies. SQW has a strong track record in relation to innovation-led growth internationally. 

Clients include international bodies such as the European Commission, government departments and agencies in the United Kingdom and overseas, devolved administrations, local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, higher education institutions, investors and developers, and service providers.  The firm is part of SQW Group.

Cambridge Econometrics (CE)

CE aims to provide rigorous, accessible and relevant independent economic analysis to support strategic planners and policy-makers in business and government. A leading independent economic consultancy with a comprehensive portfolio of analytical services.

For more information or interviews, please contact: Hasan Salim Patel, Communications Manager (Arts, Law and Social Sciences) on +44 (0) 121 415 8134 or +44 or contact the press office out of hours on +44 (0) 7789 921 165.

Or: Martin Done, Communications Advisor to the Midlands Engine on 44 (0) 7340 940571