Outside of London – what region has secured the most foreign direct investment?

The UK’s West Midlands region has retained its position as the leading location for attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) outside of London and the South East, data from the UK Government’s Department for International Trade (DIT) reveals.

The region – which sits at the heart of the UK and includes the cities of Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton – secured 157 new FDI projects during the 2019/20 financial year. This accounts for 8% of the UK’s total FDI projects and marks the strongest performance of any other UK region outside of London and the South East.

The number of new, associated jobs created totalled 3,883 and 2,220 additional jobs were safeguarded.

The US, Germany and India ranked as the region’s three leading sources of FDI respectively, in keeping with the UK’s national picture. France also featured as a prominent source.

This is the fifth year that the West Midlands has proved the most attractive regional location for investment outside of the UK capital.

Matt Hammond, Chair of the West Midlands Growth Company – the region’s official inward investment agency – and Midlands Region Chairman at global consultancy PwC – a significant investor in the region – said: “The latest figures from the UK’s Department for International Trade reinforce the West Midlands as one of the country’s most important regions to drive economic growth. Despite a period of unprecedented trade disruption globally, the region’s inherent industry strengths and critical mass of talent have assured our ability to successfully compete on the world stage.

“From my own experience of increasing PwC Midlands’ investment in the region, I have witnessed first-hand how the West Midlands can help international organisations to grow and scale at pace, with cost-competitive facilities, a diverse range of resilient industries and vibrant cityscapes that are rivalling London on quality of life.”

The leading sectors for attracting investment were Advanced Manufacturing, Automotive, Software and Computer Services and Business and Consumer Services.

Notable investment projects in the region included ACSYS Lasertechnik in Coventry, a German laser systems and processes provider; Italian-owned chemical manufacturer MAPEI UK in the Black Country; and Microland, India’s leading IT transformation company, which opened a new state-of-the-art European headquarters in Birmingham, marking its second investment in the region in two years.

Jonathan Magee, Managing Director of ACSYS Lasertechnik UK, said: “The expansion of our sales and marketing division in the last year is a result of the success we have found in the West Midlands and nationally. Our cutting-edge, high-precision industrial laser technologies are primarily used across the engraving, medical device, electronics, automotive, tooling and jewellery sectors. Additionally the region benefits us by providing a skilled workforce in laser materials processing.

“This breadth of expertise, coupled with the region’s longstanding reputation as a centre for manufacturing excellence, have helped us to strengthen our UK client base and create new opportunities for growth.”

Phil Breakspear, Managing Director at MAPEI UK, said: “These results are extremely encouraging for the region we are pleased to call our UK home. With such a varied and robust local supply chain, the West Midlands can support ambitious and expanding manufacturing firms to realise their potential, which our story at MAPEI UK is living proof of.”

Nagaraja Kini, Associate Vice President at Microland, said: “Setting up Microland’s offices in the West Midlands has facilitated a virtuous cycle of growth for our organisation. The success of our initial investment in 2018 cultivated the demand for a new Microland European operational centre, driven by the region’s thriving technology ecosystem and high-skilled talent pipeline. Having already experienced the benefits of being in the West Midlands, we knew that the region was the only place for us to fulfil these future ambitions.

“We are proud to be part of the region’s growing community of technology specialists and are looking forward to building on our accomplishments here. The West Midlands has a number of exclusive opportunities on the horizon that will give us a uniquely competitive edge, such as the region’s status as the UK’s primary multi-city 5G testbed. This facility will allow unprecedented access to trial and test new technologies and products at scale, putting us at the epicentre of the next digital revolution.”

The region’s Tech and Digital cluster is one of several priority sectors identified within its investment strategy for the 2020/21 financial year. Other high-growth industries under focus include Financial and Professional Services, Property and Construction, FinTech, Games, Transport Technologies, Energy Storage and MedTech.

This investment strategy aligns with the existing West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy – the first-of-its-kind regional economic growth plan to be developed in the UK – and will support current efforts to help the region’s economy bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic, led by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) – the local governing authority.

The West Midlands has remained resilient during the pandemic. Innovative life-sciences research from the region’s universities has shaped the international response to the COVID-19 outbreak, while West Midlands manufacturers – including global heavyweights Jaguar Land Rover and Mondelēz International – have diversified day-to-day production lines to produce life-saving equipment for medical professionals and patients on the UK’s frontline.

Initial analysis from global professional services firm KPMG suggests the West Midlands will make the strongest economic recovery of all UK regions in 2021.

Central to both the region’s recovery and investment plans is accelerating and maximising the benefits of key milestones such as HS2 and the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The major global sporting event will form a key vehicle to deepening economic relationships with key Commonwealth markets including India, Canada and Australia.

The region has already taken steps to forge closer links with these territories. In June 2020, a new West Midlands India Partnership (WMIP) launched to enhance UK-India relations and boost tourism, trade and investment between the West Midlands and India. Led by WMGC, the Partnership will embark on an initial five-year programme of activity with the Indian market, identifying opportunities for collaboration and shared, long-term growth.