A STRING of international companies moving to the West Midlands has put the region top of the UK’s overseas investment chart — for five years running.
The region has been the UK’s leading location for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) outside of London and the South East, according to data from the Department for International Trade.
It attracted 157 new FDI projects in 2019/20, which equates to eight percent of the UK total. That is the largest share generated by any UK region outside of the capital and surrounding south-east.
Major sources of investment have been the US, Germany, France and India. In total, 802 foreign investments have been made in the region since 2015.
Business, professional and financial services (BPFS), advanced manufacturing, transport technologies and tech and digital have been the regional sectors attracting international companies.
Global heavyweights such as consultancy Alvarez & Marsal and Indian IT firm Microland are among its most notable investors from the last five years.
Neil Rami, chief executive at the West Midlands Growth Company — the region’s investment promotion agency — said the region’s performance had been consistently strong.
“This robust track record of international appeal clearly signals our credentials as a global business destination,” he said. The region is also set to benefit from the 2021 Coventry City of Culture, 2022 Commonwealth Games, High-Speed 2 rail infrastructure and 5G multi-city testbed facilities. These investments would further hone the area’s competitive edge.
In 2018, professional services consultancy Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) strengthened its UK presence by opening a new office in Birmingham. A&M has 4,500 employees spread across four continents, and provides advisory, business performance improvement, turnaround management and due diligence services to private and public sectors around the world.
The firm recognises the fact that business leaders want advice from professionals with an understanding of the local market.
A&M also recently set up a transactions services practice in Birmingham, led by former Ernst and Young specialist Wayne Jephson.
IPG Photonics, a leading manufacturer of high-performance fibre lasers, invested in a purpose-built UK head office at Coventry’s Ansty Park in 2019. The Massachusetts-based company committed to creating 30 high-value jobs as well as the new facility.
Location and supply chain are enticing factors, with the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) providing local university expertise.
David Goodwin, Managing Director, IPG Photonics UK, said the region was likely to play a leading role in driving the UK’s productivity capabilities and wider industrial strategy. “For us, there isn’t a better-placed location to accelerate the industrialisation of laser-based manufacturing,” he said
Microland opened a state-of-the-art European HQ in Birmingham’s Bournville suburb in February. It had previously set up a digital hub in Longbridge — also in Birmingham — in 2018.
Nagaraja Kini, the company’s associate vice-president, said the primary objective of the second investment was to drive IT infrastructure solutions. “We knew that the region was the only place for us to fulfil our growth ambitions.”
One of China’s largest investment groups, Fosun International, became the owner of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club (Wolves) in 2016. The club has had its best placing in 40 years — and a successful UEFA Europa League campaign.
Fosun plans to extend the Molineux stadium and work in partnership with City of Wolverhampton Council and the University of Wolverhampton to enhance the area around it.
Deutsche Bahn Engineering & Consulting (DB E&C) has led the development of the UK’s new High-Speed 2 (HS2) rail network, with bases in the UK and Ireland. Part of Deutsche Bahn — Germany’s national railway company — DB E&C has created jobs and supported regional engineering skills development.
The firm has partnered with the University of Birmingham to create career opportunities for local graduates and open up R&D projects.
Christian Hünefeld, DB E&C’s Director for the UK & Ireland, said the Birmingham base had delivered an outstanding ROI and created new business leads.