West Midlands Building Technology Cluster – Cluster Map

Topics Covered


West Midlands Building Technologies Cluster Map


Demand Side

Support Industries

Support Infrastructure

Key Characteristics


This article is an extract from a report by West Midlands Building Technology Cluster Research, published May 2002, which details the results of a study commissioned by Advantage West Midlands to outline strategic options to facilitate the future development of the building technologies cluster in the West Midlands region.

Results from the cluster mapping exercise, detailed in the previous sections of the report, provided the basis for formulation of the building technology cluster in the West Midlands. This was based on key measures, including regional business concentration, number of “high hits” i.e companies accounting for a significant employment within the region, level of inter and intra trading, level of innovation, linkages between companies and research institutions and support organisations and skills concentration. Top

West Midlands Building Technologies Cluster Map                  

The core buildings technologies supply industries in the West Midlands cover over 60 sub-sectors, supplying a diverse range of goods and services. There are however, a higher proportion of companies located in certain areas of materials production, building product manufacture and building systems in the West Midlands compared with other UK regions. In particular the cluster map indicates a strong presence in three areas of materials production (e.g aggregates, clay and ceramics), four in building product manufacture (e.g sanitaryware, metal products, tiles and brick & blocks) and one building systems assembly (heating and ventilation) which have a higher concentration of companies and employment. This is mainly due to historic reasons where industries have grown up around natural resources of materials. Nevertheless, the study identified 23 “high hits”, where companies account for over 0.5% of the regions employment. These were often market leaders supplying the bulk of their goods UK wide and overseas.  A significant proportion of other companies interviewed, especially materials producers, product manufacturers and system integrators also trade outside the region. Apart from companies that only supply dedicated goods and services to the construction market e.g cement, sanitaryware, tiles, timber frames etc a significant number also supply into other markets for materials, products and systems integration such as automotive, process machinery etc and are therefore important for the wider regional economy. Top


Consolidation of the industry and increasing mergers and acquisitions etc have resulted in greater ownership and loss of autonomy, especially in larger companies within the region. This could obviously impact on future investment and development of the cluster. There is however, at least one major company building design headquarters (ARUP) located in Solihull that is an important specifier in the supply chain.  Top

Demand Side

The demand side e.g construction management, building specifiers and end customers of the cluster have a medium presence in the West Midlands, similar to other regions. Construction contractors and building specifiers are usually large organisation working on UK and overseas contracts. They typically have regional offices around the UK close to the main construction markets. The West Midlands is undergoing significant urban regeneration and accounted for the second highest level of new house building starts in the UK after the South East. As a result, these are important local markets for the building technologies supply industry in the West Midlands. Top

Support Industries

Support industries providing a range of specialist equipment and services to the core building technologies supply sector and wider construction industry have, on the whole, a medium presence in the West Midlands. The region has a strong construction machinery industry, especially with the headquarters of JCB located in Uttoxeter, who are a global company operating in most international markets. There is also a significant toolmaking and machine tool industry in the West Midlands that supply directly to local component and product manufacturing sub-sectors in the building technologies industry.

Figure 12 indicates the relative strength and depth of the building technologies cluster in the West Midlands.


Support Infrastructure

An extensive support infrastructure exists within the West Midlands, although this is an area that needs further development. A comprehensive network of business support organisations such as the Business Links, is established and the region has 13 universities/HEIs providing research and training services to local companies. Due to the diversity of the building technologies sector and end user markets, supply chains and industry linkages are often fragmented.  Analysis of the cluster identified strong linkages between universities and companies in ceramics (e.g CERAM, Staffordshire, Keele etc) and metals/materials (e.g Birmingham, Coventry etc) and manufacturing (e.g Warwick etc). However, the majority of companies surveyed stated that they have no links with universities. Establishing closer links with universities and HEIs will be a key factor in the development of the cluster. Earlier sections of the report highlighted the extensive training support infrastructure in the West Midlands, which is a key asset to the region and vital to future development a strong buildings technology cluster. Top

Key Characteristics

A profile is given in Figure 13, highlights the key characteristics of the West Midlands building technologies cluster.

Cluster Composition


No of Companies (key manufacturers)


Employment (key manufacturers/suppliers)


Turnover (key manufacturers)

.£12 billion

Materials Production (strong/medium presence)

secondary metal products, polymers, glass, aggregates, cement, clay ceramics, bitumen, concrete

Building Product Manufacture (strong/medium presence)

buildersware/plastic goods, sanitaryware, metal goods/fittings, structural metal fabrications, architectural metalwork, concrete products, coatings, tiles, bricks/blocks, boilers/heating, pipes (metal, clay, plastic), structural timber, insulation

Building Systems Manufacture (strong/medium presence)

electrical, glazing, pre-fabricated units, interiors, safety, timber frame, heating
& ventilation, wood, pre-cast concrete, monitoring/protection systems

Construction/Building (strong/medium presence)

internal finish, M&E, utilities, groundwork, load bearing/non-load bearing structures, landscaping, refurbishment/repairs

Important Regional Micro Clusters

ceramic sanitaryware, tiles, bricks/blocks, metal goods, heating & ventilation

Key Support/Supplier Industries

construction machinery, technical services, machine tools, toolmakers, plant hire, consultancies

Important support Infrastructure linkages

CERAM, universities, AWM. business links, training organisations

Linkages to other sectors/clusters

environmental technologies, renewable energy, assisted living technologies, ICT

Figure 13.  West Midlands Building Technologies Cluster Profile


Source: West Midlands Building Technologies Cluster Research

             A Summary of the Results and Recommendations, May 2002

For more information on this source please email [email protected]

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