Drive Midlands gets into gear

Drive Midlands, which supports and promotes the region’s automotive industry, is launching a new programme for the supply chain within the area. The Drive Midlands Automotive Partnership will provide sector-specific support to local firms, regardless of size.

The programme’s launch event takes place on 19 September at Coventry Transport Museum. Featuring keynote speakers from BMW, Birmingham City University (BCU) and the Department for International Trade (DIT), the event – called Gearing up for Change – will provide insight into how Midlands automotive firms can address today’s challenges, from Brexit to the skills agenda.

The Midlands is a world-renowned centre for the automotive sector. Across the region, there are more than 1,300 companies operating within the automotive supply chain, and it is home to 35 of the industry’s global top 50 suppliers. The Midlands ranks alongside Poland and Turkey as a top global destination for automotive foreign direct investment.

David Shepherd, senior business development manager at Drive Midlands, said, ‘The Midlands remains one of the strongest automotive hubs in the world, and the growth of this sector is vital for our economy – both within the Midlands and for the UK as a whole.

‘There is a gap in the region for a solely automotive support organisation that can equip automotive firms with the tools and knowledge to help them develop and grow. A rapidly changing landscape, made even faster with Brexit, is creating opportunities, but also uncertainty. This new partnership has been designed to help any automotive company to recognise how they can address and overcome practical day-to-day issues, from funding to recruitment and international trade.’

Drive Midlands has engaged with more than 500 automotive specialists in the Midlands since it launched in 2016. Its partnership programme will provide additional support to companies, including training events, networking opportunities and workshop sessions led by industry experts. Business support focuses on areas such as access to finance, selling to Tier 1 firms, product development, recruitment and exporting.

The Gearing up for Change launch event will present topics such as the impact of different Brexit scenarios on the supply chain and the growing skills gap within the industry, demonstrating the sector insight and knowledge that the partnership programme will be offering.

It will feature industry experts including Dr Simon Farrall, chair of the Automotive Council Skills Working Group; Dr Shishank Shishank, lecturer at BCU Business School; Jay Nagley, Automotive Sector specialist at DIT; and Robert Evans, CEO of Cenex.

Dr Simon Farrall said, ‘It is vital to the future of our automotive sector that businesses take the opportunity to join together and explore practical solutions to the challenges they are facing. Bringing the public and private sectors together, with academia and other industry experts, will help to pinpoint how this region can remain internationally competitive in the face of considerable change.’