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Midlands manufacturing: Driving the recovery?

Midlands Manufacturing: Driving the Economy?
From left to right: Prof Dame Julia King, Mike Wright, Prof David Bailey, Prof George Feiger

18 February 2014

Businesses from across the region gathered to hear from two leading experts on manufacturing and the automotive industry at Aston University last week.  The first event in Aston Business School’s Transforming the West Midlands series kicked off with presentations from Professor David Bailey and Mike Wright, Executive Director of Jaguar Land Rover. 

The aim of the series is to explore and discuss some of the major issues affecting businesses and the wider economy in the region, bringing together expert opinion from Aston’s faculty and senior business leaders and policy makers. 

David Bailey, Professor of Industrial Strategy at Aston Business School, explored some of the challenges affecting the manufacturing industry in the West Midlands, including long term under-investment in infrastructure, deindustrialisation and relatively poor performance in R&D.  He also highlighted the impact of the financial crisis of 2008-9 which led to an output drop and unemployment rise in the West Midlands which was worse than any other region.  But there are reasons to be cheerful according to David, with exports from the region up by 30% over the last two years and significant investment, particularly in the automotive industry. 

Mike Wright, who is Chair of CBI West Midlands Council, a director of EEF Ltd and chairs the Advisory Board of Aston Business School went on to highlight some of the reasons for Jaguar Land Rover’s recent success and their vision for the future which focusses on design and engineering leadership, investment in manufacturing here in the UK and investment in education. Mike also spoke about the importance of the local supply chain and some of the initiatives supported by Jaguar Land Rover. 

It is pleasure to work with Universities like Aston, as they are doing such a great job at developing the business and engineering leaders of the future

After his presentation Mike Wright, said: “This event provided a great opportunity to debate the health of the West Midlands’ manufacturing industry. I personally believe we are in a strong position in the West Midlands to lead the recovery.  It is a pleasure to work with Universities like Aston, as they are doing such a great job at developing the business and engineering leaders of the future.”   

Aston Business School has a long history of supporting businesses in the West Midlands, particularly SMEs.  Support for SMEs is currently available through the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Servitization and Innovation Voucher programmes.

Upcoming events in the Transforming the West Midlands series will feature presentations on small business growth, inward investment, innovation and intellectual property and strategies for financing growth. 

-Ends- 

Notes to editors:

Professor David Bailey is an influential business expert on economic restructuring and industrial policy, perhaps best known for his knowledge of UK and West Midlands car manufacturing.

As an author, regular media commentator and newspaper columnist, he has provided articles and commentary on key economic and regional policy issues including the closure and eventual reopening of the MG Rover car plant in Birmingham, UK, and the Jaguar Land Rover economic success story. 

Mike Wright was appointed to the new position of Executive Director, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) in December 2010, reporting to CEO – Dr Ralf Speth, a role created to focus on the development of corporate strategies to deliver the company’s growth ambitions.  His direct responsibilities include leadership of Group Strategy; Global Financial Services;  worldwide Government Affairs; Corporate & Social Responsibility and the new Individual Products division. Mike began his career in the automotive industry at Rover Triumph in 1975. He has held a variety of senior sales and marketing positions in a number of international markets - including four years in Germany - working at different times for Rover, Land Rover, Jaguar and Jaguar Land Rover under the ownership of BAe, BMW, Ford and now Tata.