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The West Midlands Combined Authority states that its key activity across this area in 19/20 will be:

  • West Midlands 5G
  • Digital Growth & PSR
  • Develop a Strategic Approach to Culture
  • Working Towards the Commonwealth Games and Coventry City of Culture

The areas in which it hopes to deliver the most impact include:

  • Staged roll out of 5G connectivity across sites in the West Midlands
  • Establishment of 5G ‘accelerator’ facilities within key sites in the region
  • ‘Quick wins’ in digital public services, industry 4.0 and mobility through the 5G programme
  • New 5G sites, expansion of connectivity on the public estate
  • Substantial private and government investment into the region via 5G programme

In 2021, Coventry will be the UK’s City of Culture and in 2022, Birmingham is scheduled to host the Commonwealth Games. These two events have the potential to provide the region with major economic and social boosts; perhaps which may have been taken slightly for granted pre-pandemic.

Pre pandemic, the expectation was that the City of Culture year would bring 2.5 million visitors to Coventry throughout the year (including 50,000 international visitors) and would generate over £100 million for the region’s tourism sector – as well as of course, boosting both the cultural and digital industries. The 2018 Commonwealth Games held in Queensland, Australia is estimated to have delivered a £1.3 billion boost to the regional economy, which if replicated in the West Midlands could be truly fundamental to the region’s ‘Great Recovery’.

Both of these major programmes have huge potential to act as catalysts to regional growth and should unlock even further investment in the region and potentially open up new industries as part of their legacies.

But yet the battering that COVID-19 has dished out to companies and individuals, particularly across the Media, Culture and Sport sectors, cannot be ignored. What will be left of these industries at the turn of 2021? How far down the road will we be in terms of the economy recovery that these two events are seen as positive showcases as opposed to ‘unnecessary’ public expenditure?

The legacies of these programmes are so important; not only to public confidence that the sums spent on securing and delivering the projects were of value – but to ensure that a lasting impact in terms of engagement and participation with the arts and sport.

The region also has phenomenal opportunities presented to it by successfully bidding to become the UK’s testbed for 5G technology. There are also huge opportunities presented by the roll out of full fibre networks across the UK, as companies such as OpenReach and CityFibre slug it out to enhance the nation’s infrastructure. But what do the public really know and understand of these technologies and in particular, how they can be applied to enhance lives, both socially and professionally.

How can 5G and Full Fibre transform the region and provide business with the enhanced infrastructure to enhance productivity and efficiencies across their organisations. As an example, one only needs to look at the Higher Education sector and the rapid ‘lift-and-shift’ from the lecture theatre to online learning currently taking place to understand what enhanced infrastructure would mean for certain industries.

What else can the region do to ensure that it becomes a true first mover in the market and truly embrace the opportunities presented?

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