The West Midlands has cemented its reputation as a global investment hotspot, emerging as the UK’s top regional location for attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) outside London.
The region has recorded the highest annual growth rate of all UK locations.
According to official data from the Department for Business and Trade (DBT), 181 FDI projects landed in the region during the 2022/23 financial year – more projects than Scotland and Wales combined and overtaking the South East for the first time. This represents over 10% of the UK’s total FDI wins (1,654) – the largest share of all UK regions outside the capital. With 8,252 jobs created by overseas investors during the same period – a 48% increase compared to 2021/2022 – the West Midlands also bucked the national trend of a decline in FDI-related jobs.
The last financial year also saw the West Midlands Growth Company (WMGC) – the region’s official investment promotion agency – achieving a record-high performance, with recorded projects representing an unprecedented 171% increase on last year.
The Business and Tourism Programme (BATP), the first programme of its kind established to boost the economic impact of the Commonwealth Games, has played a key role in boosting the region’s inward investment performance.
Over the last year, BATP-led trade and investment missions to India; Australia, Malaysia and Singapore and the US have enabled the region to strengthen existing trade ties and reach into new markets to increase its inward investment pipeline. In particular, over the last twelve months, India has overtaken the US to become the West Midlands’ leading source of FDI, with tech-led investments into the region representing a prominent trend.
One third of WMGC’s portfolio of inward investment projects in 2022/23 were secured as a direct result of the Global Growth Programme – a support package – led by WMGC – to help international companies kickstart their growth journey in the UK. These include international payments solutions provider, Fincra; Singapore-based RegTech company, Primacy; India-based EdTech company, Mind & Matter; India’s first plastic credit platform, The Disposal Company, and Canada-based pan-African fintech company, Kora.
Matt Hammond, Chair of the West Midlands Growth Company (WMGC), said: “Despite the wave of shocks that have faced the global economy over the last year, these latest FDI figures are a reminder that investment appetite in the West Midlands remains extremely strong. It shows the mileage and impact of the West Midlands on the world stage when the right interventions – such as the Business and Tourism Programme – are in place.
“The West Midlands’ impressive figures buck the national trend of declining jobs and outstrip all of the UK when it comes to FDI job growth – including London. They are a demonstration of WMGC’s award-winning investment strategy in practice, as we continue to strengthen ties with key markets to the benefit of local people”.
As part of the £1.5 billion Deeper Devolution Deal, WMGC will co-develop a bespoke West Midlands international strategy in conjunction with DBT. This will help us to supercharge the legacy of the Games by opening up new overseas markets for West Midlands products and bring millions of pounds worth of foreign direct investment into the region.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We all know just how important inward investment is to the success of the West Midlands economy, and so it really is brilliant news that this latest data shows how we are the strongest performing region.
“Not only does this mean that our industrial heritage, entrepreneurial culture, world-class universities and a broad and deep talent pool is setting the West Midlands apart in the eyes of overseas investors, but it also means thousands of quality jobs are being created right here for local people.
“There could not be a greater vote of confidence in the region than investors putting their money on the table in the way they have this past year, but it is critical now that we keep up this momentum and continue to build on the global platform that the Commonwealth Games gave us.”
The strength of the West Midlands’ FDI strategy was recently recognised at fDi Intelligence European Cities and Regions of the Future 2023, where Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry & Warwickshire all secured top-three rankings. The rankings benchmark European cities and regions according to their economic, financial, and business strengths.