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A ‘Tech Commissioner’ is set to be appointed to help supercharge the West Midlands by helping to build a forward looking, technologically advanced economy that harnesses big data to improve public services and drive business.

The Commissioner, who would act as a high-profile leader for the region’s digital and tech sector, is one of several initiatives set out in a new partnership announced today (Monday October 10) between the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Birmingham Tech, a not-for-profit community initiative (CIC) which aims to raise the profile of the region’s tech scene.

The partnership has been struck with the specific aim of helping the region realise the full potential of digital technology so it can transform and future proof its economy.

It will play a key role in delivering the WMCA Digital Roadmap which was launched last year to tackle digital exclusion, reach net zero and support the post-Covid recovery.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands (left) with Clare Streets and Yiannis Maos from Birmingham Tech who will work in partnership with the WMCA on helping the regional economy realise the full potential of digital technology

Focussing on the cross-cutting role of digital and tech it will also help underpin the work of the West Midlands Plan for Growth and the ambition to grow the regional economy, sustainably and in a way that benefits all parts of society.

In addition to the appointment of a Tech Commissioner the partnership will:

  • Establish a network of West Midlands tech and digital ‘ambassadors’ around the world who can fly the flag for the region
  • Support the establishment of workspaces for digital and tech entrepreneurs/start-ups
  • Work to ensure the region can maximise funding for the digital and tech sector

Announcing the partnership in a speech at iCentrum in Birmingham to mark the start of Birmingham Tech Week, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said:

“As our region bounces back from Covid and we seek to supercharge our economic recovery, digital technology will have a central role to play.

“If we want to deliver growth and provide local residents with the high-quality, well-paid jobs of the future then we must embed the latest digital technology into West Midlands businesses and ensure everyone has digital access in their personal and professional lives.

“I’m delighted to be working with such a well-regarded organisation as Birmingham Tech to deliver growth through our digital economy. Digital adoption is accelerating and building a digitally connected economy and society has never been more important.”

The partnership’s two year, £160,000 programme will focus on driving greater investment in the region’s tech firms, both domestic and international, and securing a higher survival rate with more start-ups going on to become scale-ups.

It will also look to deliver greater diversity in the leadership and staff of the region’s tech firms and boost the number of national and international firms relocating or opening offices in the West Midlands.

Cllr Ian Brookfield, WMCA portfolio lead for economy and innovation and leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said;

“Technology needs to be the bedrock of our economy and it will be critical for the West Midlands to compete on the global stage.

“This is hugely important for businesses and people across the whole region, from Wolverhampton to Leamington Spa. It will help create the right conditions for innovative new firms to flourish and create the jobs local people need.

“Birmingham Tech CIC will bring valuable expertise to this mission because of the way they are able to raise the profile of the Birmingham and West Midlands tech scene. They have a strong track record in helping businesses grow by providing them with valuable knowledge, insight and support.”

Yiannis Maos, founder and CEO of Birmingham Tech, added:

“We are delighted to be working with the WMCA to supercharge the region’s digital economy. The West Midlands has a rich history of innovation, and this ingenuity will allow us to be at the forefront of the next digital revolution.

“Last year we were named the ‘fastest growing tech sector in the UK’, which is great recognition and testament to the collaborative work from across the region’s ecosystem. However, this is just the start, and we will use this solid foundation to empower individuals, enable tech businesses to scale and become a globally recognised tech hub.

“Since our inception back in 2019, our mission has always been clear; to inspire people from all walks of life to get into tech, to celebrate the region’s digital sector and to foster an inclusive environment of collaboration. This partnership will enable us to get closer to this mission and aligns perfectly with the WMCA’s digital strategy.”

The partnership’s task to help the region realise the full economic potential of digital technology is one of five key missions set out in last year’s Digital Roadmap.

The other four missions are:

  • Secure access for everyone to digital opportunities, particularly those in poverty
  • Sharing and using data to improve people’s lives
  • Becoming the UK’s best-connected region
  • Using digital public services to build a fairer, greener, healthier region