Based on the analysis of this mapping study of the West Midlands buildings technologies cluster, the following conclusions can be drawn:
• The building technologies cluster, part of the wider construction industry, is of significant importance to the West Midlands economy. It directly employees over 135,000 in over 600 companies with a combined turnover of more than £12 billion per year. It is also of economic importance to other industry sectors in the region e.g automotive, machinery etc, where a considerable number of companies supplying materials, products and equipment.
• The cluster comprises of a core supplies industry with over 64 sub-sectors covering a diverse range of materials, products, equipment and services, a strong support industry of over 140 companies supplying a range of equipment machinery and specialist services and an established support infrastructure. This includes over 15 universities, HEIs, RTOs and training organisations, a number of which have strong links with the cluster.
• The cluster has both breadth and depth in certain areas with five important regional micro clusters (e.g ceramic sanitaryware, tiles, bricks & blocks, metal goods and heating & ventilation). Parts of the cluster have significant trade nationally and internationally, which include a number of companies who are market leaders.
• Important strengths of the cluster include its strong capability covering a wide range of building technologies and supply industries, the presence of regional micro clusters and linkages and comprehensive support infrastructure. At least three key assets that differentiate the West Midlands cluster from other regions, namely:
o Its design, manufacturing and engineering skills base, which will be required to meet the future needs of the building and wider construction industry
o Its central location to markets and links to the transport network
o The presence of a world class training facility, e.g the Advanced Technology Centre (ATC) offering value added training
These are key assets in the region and therefore should be fully exploited Top
• The main weaknesses in the region include the fragmented nature of the supply chain and industry-HEI linkages, the relatively low level of R&D activity in certain areas and limited use of existing product innovation support schemes by companies, which are therefore key areas for action.
• The main threats and barriers to cluster development are the availability of skilled workers not in employment, traffic congestion in the region, availability of finance for product innovation and capital investment and changes in customer demand. Failure to react to these threats will impact on the competitive position of the cluster. Top
Change and Opportunity
• Construction is widely reported to undergo unprecedented change over the next 20 years, driven by environmental regulation, customer requirements, changing markets, economic factors, changing regulations and technology innovation. These drivers will have a significant impact on all parts of the supply chain, which will require innovation in new products, processes and technologies in order to meet the future needs of the industry.
• The housing market is currently valued at £27 billion per year, where repair and maintenance accounts for £17 billion and new house starts £10 billion. Substantial growth is forecast over the next 20 years, where new methods of construction such as modular buildings will required to meet the predicted demand for 3.8 million new homes. This provides a window of opportunity for the West Midlands buildings technologies cluster, which has a strong skills base in automated manufacturing and training facilities necessary for upskilling of the workforce to meet future housing demand. Apart from modular construction, wider markets opportunities identified for the region include:
o Sustainable materials, products and buildings
o High performance materials and products
o Diversification opportunities for related sectors e.g component manufacture, prefabricated welded structures, electronic management systems etc
o Reclamation technologies for brownfield/contaminated land
o Smart products and buildings with embedded sensors
o Renewable energy power/heating systems e.g. solar, fuel cells etc
o Sustainable building designs incorporating renewable energy
o High performance repair technologies
o Facilities management services Top
The West Midlands buildings technologies cluster is ideally placed to exploit changes taking place within construction. There are however, some weaknesses within the cluster, which are a barrier to future growth. Action will be required in order to develop a dynamic, healthy and sustainable building technologies cluster in the West Midlands. Top