birmingham 2022
The University of Birmingham are official partners for Birmingham 2022

Cathy Gilbert, University of Birmingham Director of External Relations participated in Insider Media’s recent online forum discussion on the Commonwealth Games. With 18 months to go before the event itself, the online forum explored the road map in the lead up to the Games and the opportunities for business with a 5 strong panel of key players from the Birmingham 2022 stakeholder community.

For two weeks in the summer of 2022 all eyes will be on Birmingham for the next edition of what is now an almost 100 year old international tradition of staging the Commonwealth Games.

“There is a real opportunity for us to capitalise on the profile that Birmingham will have.”

Birmingham 2022 - driving partnerships with industry

Cathy highlighted the many benefits that the Games will bring as well as the opportunity to “drive partnerships and relationships with businesses and with industry and increase our profile and drive inward investment.

Cathy appeared on the panel to represent the University’s world leading higher education partnership with the Games along with the Birmingham 2022 Chief Executive Ian Reid, as well as Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, Paul Faulkner Chief Executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, Lorna Gavin the Head of Corporate Responsibility at Gowling WLG, and Darren Clarke Partner at Arcadis.

This multi sporting event involving 54 countries in the Commonwealth of Nations and 72 teams entering to compete at each games is likely to be the second, if not the first depending on the outcome of this year’s decision to hold the Olympic Games in Japan, major celebratory international sporting occasion in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

As an Official Partner of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games the University of Birmingham will contribute greatly towards the success of the event.

Cathy commented, “There are two fantastic opportunities that I’d highlight around the Commonwealth Games coming to Birmingham, the first one is around Place. For us at the University 25% of our students come from within the region, 48% stay after they graduate. If we can increase that even further that’s a skills base that will drive growth and inward investment.

Cathy was asked by Editor Kurt Jacobs about the wider cultural and intellectual legacy of the Commonwealth Games. How do you see the opportunity as a way for regenerating Birmingham’s reputation as a place to think, a place for ideas?

We will be on the global stage in 2022 and if you think about the international dimension and if we attract more international students this brings short term benefits, every 8 students we bring in to the region brings an extra 1 million in local revenue – we are launching Commonwealth scholarships to increase that profile. They also go back to their home countries as fantastic ambassadors for the region, they then drive partnerships and relationships with businesses and with industry and increase our profile and drive inward investment.

A Place for Ideas, Debate and Inward Investment

Cathy went on to say that the second opportunity for the city of Birmingham was to be ‘the convener of debate’ and to ‘also translate that into how we commercialise those ideas.’

The University’s Institute for Global Innovation recently launched the Forum for Global Challenges that looks at key global challenges such as climate change, global inequality. Key partners include the World Bank, Reuters, CBI, UKRI and the West Midlands Combined Authority. In May 2022 there will be a major international conference of business, industry, policy makers, and academics in Birmingham in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games.

That live connectivity across the globe that will then drive our profile as a city on things like hydrogen buses, clean air initiatives, links fantastically around the sustainability agenda. There are some key flagship messages that we can take out to the world around Birmingham as a city and a region with many many benefits, as a University we will bring an academic rigour to that and be a convener of debate, we can translate that into opportunities for business, it’s a massive opportunity for the legacy of the Games.

Cathy concluded with emphasising the importance of bringing academia together with business to boost the inward investment priorities for the region:

In building connectivity, profile, showcasing the skills, the thought leadership, innovation and the hierarchy of businesses of different sizes within the city and allowing the connectivity to take place is so important, if you take the Life Sciences campus which is a partnership between academia and business we can see inward investment already coming in from being the thought leaders around life sciences, allowing chance for connections to develop at events will overcome challenges around climate change and other issues for the future.

It was mentioned that the Games and their legacy are not just about ticket sales, regeneration through Sport and two amazing weeks of ‘the circus coming to town’.

Panellists were also keen to emphasise that businesses in the region need to focus, push towards the challenge and opportunities presented by the Games coming to the region, being proactive in our approach means we can really make the most of Birmingham’s moment in the spotlight and ensure the raised regional profile and economic investment benefit the region for many years to come.

You can watch the full live recording of this event online here.

This week also sees the launch of Birmingham 2022’s #22for22 campaign, featuring University of Birmingham PhD student and para powerlifter, Ali Jawad. The campaign features 22 elite English athletes in a video series that aims to encourage exercise at home as the country goes through its third lockdown. Each athlete demonstrates a simple exercise, which can be done from the comfort of home. More information about the University’s role as an official partner of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games can be found here.