The city of Wolverhampton has signed an agreement formalising trade links with India. The University is proud to be a key partner in this initiative, and a delegation visited the Indian industrial powerhouse of Bangalore recently to showcase what the city has to offer to businesses.
In today’s challenging economic climate, seeking out new opportunities for business and developing networks are essential to ensure survival. In Wolverhampton, the University and City Council have joined forces and are going the extra mile – or rather 5,000 miles – to make contacts, build relationships and enhance trade and investment.
A Memorandum of Co-operation (MoC) was signed during a trade mission to Bangalore by Wolverhampton City Council Chief Executive Simon Warren, Associate Dean at the University’s School of Technology Professor Richard Hall and Aroon Raman of the Confederation of Indian Industry. The agreement states the partners will work closely together to enhance trade and investment opportunities, offer advice and support to each other as well as businesses seeking opportunities, and promote each others’ regions.
Richard Hall explains the delegation was keen to build links with Bangalore in particular as it is experiencing unrivalled growth and has many similarities to Wolverhampton and the surrounding West Midlands region.
"This is the first time we have gone out with local government on a collaborative, global venture. And that is the difference – we are going out and bringing the business in. Today manufacturing is global and hence we have to travel to engage with business and governments to bring jobs to Wolverhampton.
"The reason we chose Bangalore is that it has a similar profile to us as a region. It is about the same size as the West Midlands, and they have an aspiration to be the number one city for the aerospace sector in India, while we aspire to be the leading area for aerospace in Europe. Currently we are within the top ten regions in Europe.
"Bangalore has experienced a nine per cent growth rate this year. This has predominantly been in IT but now the aerospace sector is growing at a similar rate. A lot of companies are putting high value manufacturing in Bangalore."
Richard explains there are a number of major companies based in Wolverhampton, including Timken Aerospace, Goodrich, Moog and Hamilton Sundstrand, and three of these four have set-up part of their manufacturing in Bangalore.
The University has existing links with local aerospace companies, including Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs). KTPs form a partnership between a company, a recently qualified graduate (Associate) and a university in order to develop and deliver a specific, strategic project for the company.
"We want to create connected thinking. If we can support our partners in the UK better and also abroad, then we can develop our business alongside their growth," Richard continues. "By developing a relationship with India we hope to increase opportunities for research and development, collaborative skills development, job creation and also to enhance the outreach of the University internationally."
An additional benefit of the link will be meeting a skills need in Bangalore.
"As they have grown, they have found they need more trained graduates such as engineers, designers, IT specialists and business managers, and there is a shortage. We are trying to tackle that by offering specialist courses focused on aerospace. Our aim is to give them the graduates they need to sustain their growth and as we have similar needs at home, we will be offering these courses in the UK too."
One of the most exciting aspects of the agreement is the relationship between the University and the City Council.
Following the signing of the MoC, a delegation of four top Indian trade bosses travelled to Wolverhampton and spent two days investigating opportunities for investment and co-operation. During the visit, they toured the city’s i54 business park, a 96-hectare site on the northern boundary of Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire which aims to create 6,000 jobs primarily in the high technology sector.
They also looked around the Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre, a partnership established to have a positive economic impact on the city and West Midlands region by providing access to business services, and toured the home of Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Molineux Stadium.
Richard says: "They were impressed by the quality of the local industry in Wolverhampton and the University’s business engagement. They went away with ideas of what is working for us and how they can apply it to their own region and community."
The successful visit was followed by a second trip to Bangalore by delegates from the Council and University, including Professor Ian Oakes, Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise.
This visit focused on meeting with the government, identifying potential partners and meeting with existing ones such as companies with bases in both Wolverhampton and Bangalore. The delegation also exhibited at the Air India Show where they met with captains of industry such as Ratan Tata, the head of the Tata empire.
Ian is delighted with the progress of the partnership.
He adds: "We have a well developed aerospace sector and a lot of experience and expertise in Wolverhampton. If we marry those together and create collaborative links we can have growth on both sides. We can grow together in the international market, and it is a win-win situation.
"We hope to build on the success of this agreement between the Council, the University and the Confederation of Indian Industry and create inward investment, research and development opportunities and jobs."
The agreement offers exciting opportunities for the economic development of the cities of Wolverhampton and Bangalore, and all the partners are enthusiastic and committed to the success of this new venture.