Developing an Innovative and Collaborative Approach to Localised Industrial Strategy Delivery for the West Midlands

Whilst there is a lot of literature on smart specialisation and competitiveness enhancing frameworks internationally, the application to place-based industrial strategies in the UK remains very scant. Although broad sectors of growth have been identified in strategies such as the WMCA Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) based on robust research it is now appropriate to take the next step in understanding these and create a long term approach to holistic investment in place-based growth. The application of this research into policy corresponds to sectoral policy pressures and new best practice emerging from academic work at City-REDI.

Work carried out by academics (Professor Simon Collinson, Professor John Bryson and Professor Raquel Ortega-Argiles) at the University of Birmingham would point towards a strategic approach at a city region level as the most appropriate intervention point. This is further emphasised by the need to encompass the principles of smart specialisation, economic geography, impact intervention and local leadership; taking account of competitiveness, innovation, growth potential, export opportunities and the challenges brought about by Brexit. At the policy level, PA Consulting has developed a model of specialisation and growth orientation for national economies that is being successfully applied in Costa Rica. Although this model utilises core research theory supported by City-REDI it currently does not cover city regions. 


This project will be aimed at carrying out a feasibility study with PA to understand:

  • The applicability of the model at a lower level than country; 
  • To understand how well it utilises current City-REDI academic thinking and how it may be enhanced; 
  • How it meets public sector stakeholder requirements;
  • Understanding the IP constraints; 
  • How it may influence national and city region policy agendas especially the establishment of local industrial strategies.

The approach we are taking is to maximise the opportunity to create research impact by:

  • Establishing a co-creation group of the relevant regional stakeholders, who will be provided with a series of events to present City-REDI research, comment and shape the development of the tool to meet policy and practice demands;
  • Develop a long-term relationship with a private sector partner already providing similar services in the market and ensure City-REDI research is embedded in their practice when advising other clients;
  • Whilst also exploring commercialisation opportunities for academic research and new products and services, building on common ground;
  • Have a launch (or review event depending on outcome of the feasibility study) to engage with other City-Regions and look at whether other areas would be interested in the same approach. 

This long-term approach would help shape the Growth Company’s approach to Foreign Direct Investment; WMCA Innovation Fund; shape investments in the WMCA programme; mayoral investments and future versions of the strategic economic plan for the West Midlands. At the national level, the impact of the work will be further developing research and analysis to be used within the City-REDI Cabinet Office Secondment on Industrial Strategy and create long-term collaboration opportunities with central government through BEIS in the West Midlands. 

The aim of this project is to test the potential of the compete model, built by PA Consulting and used internationally to help define Manufacturing and Service sector strategies for a rapidly changing economy. It will test the feasibility of using this approach at the regional level within the UK as well as investigate the potential for improving the methodology especially in terms of City-REDI academic research such as the impact and role of enabling technologies across the business base (smart specialisation) and the use of micro level data and understanding. 

Research team

University of Birmingham lead:  External Lead:  Secondee:
  • Dr Tasos Kitsos, Research Fellow, City-REDI
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Funder/client: ESRC 
Timescale: July 2017 - June 2018


Rebecca RileyProject lead: Rebecca Riley
Tel: 0121 414 4366