Regional leaders united in call for Government flagship innovation agency to be based in Birmingham

Left to right: MP for Dudley South, Mike Wood; Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street; chief executive of the MTC, Dr Clive Hickman; and deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, Cllr Brigid Jones.

Business, academic and political leaders in the West Midlands have teamed up in a bid to bring the Government’s new Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) to Birmingham.

ARIA was announced by the Government last year as an independent agency to fund high-risk, high-reward scientific research. It will be led by prominent, world-leading scientists who will be given the freedom to identify and fund transformational science and technology at speed. The new agency will help to cement the UK’s position as a global scientific superpower, while shaping the country’s efforts to build back better through innovation.

Now regional leaders, including the Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, and Dr Clive Hickman, chief executive of the Manufacturing Technology Centre alongside academic leaders are calling for the agency to be headquartered in Birmingham. The bid coalition has identified Old Curzon Street Station as an ideal location. It has a longstanding history of innovation and engineering excellence.

The bid was officially launched at Old Curzon Street Station by West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, Dr Clive Hickman, chief executive of the Manufacturing Technology Centre, Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Innovation and Enterprise at Birmingham City University (BCU) and Councillor Brigid Jones, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council.

Old Curzon Street Station, now the hub of HS2 in the city, was once home to the historic Lunar Society of Birmingham, which helped shape Britain’s scientific, political and social agenda throughout the 18th century.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said, “The West Midlands offers an ideal base for ARIA, with our central UK location, our world-leading knowledge, and our talent base of academics and industry expertise. With a fast-growing and diverse young community, our region has the next generation of innovators and inventors who can help meet the Government’s ambition to be a scientific superpower. In post-pandemic Britain, basing ARIA in the West Midlands will help deliver levelling up by creating high-quality jobs and new skills for residents as well as addressing the regional imbalance of public and private investment.

Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Birmingham City University, said, “As a home to 20 leading universities, the West Midlands is an ideal springboard for ARIA to access some of the brightest minds and innovators the UK has to offer, including Birmingham City University’s new £70m STEAMhouse initiative offering access to like-minded collaborators from the business, academic, creative and digital communities. It’s critical that the opportunity to choose a location like the West Midlands also enables ARIA the international platform and links it needs to succeed, which Birmingham offers.”

Dr Clive Hickman, chief executive of the Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre said, “With its proud manufacturing heritage and strong track record of attracting inward investment, the West Midlands offers the ideal ecosystem for the next chapter of the UK’s innovation story. The region is already leading the innovation race through its Catapult centres in Energy Systems and High Value Manufacturing, as well as housing several industry powerhouses and a number of universities with international reputations, providing the next generation of facilities and minds to benefit ARIA in its aim to deliver transformative technological change.”

The coalition believes the West Midlands is the natural place to host ARIA because of its:

  • Strong industrial heritage and investment in innovation – For every £1 the Government has previously invested in the West Midlands the region has attracted a further £4 from the private sector, boosting jobs.
  • Immediate access to world-leading industry and academic expertise – ARIA funding can be maximised by tapping into the existing knowledge base, including the region’s 20 universities, several industrial research centres and a wealth of young talent with a fast-growing and diverse community
  • Opportunity to Level Up – Basing ARIA in the West Midlands wil deliver jobs and new skills for the whole nation ad help to address the imbalance of public and private investment in the regions.
  • Strategic location and unparalleled connectivity. The centrally-located West Midlands is the best connected region in the country and offers ARIA easy reach into every corner of the UK.
  • Leading role in the development of green technology, from the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre to the Energy Systems Catapult the West Midlands is home to some of the most forward-thinking innovators in green technology, each of whom stand ready to work with the ARIA team to drive forward a Green Industrial Revolution.