Outlined by a culture of excellence and innovation, the University of Birmingham continues to break the boundaries of academia in a plethora of ways. As an institution that has welcomed students and staff from around the world for more than 100 years, Birmingham is one of the worlds most connected and influential higher education providers, boasting one of the UK’s largest international student communities and a network of 300,000 alumni worldwide.
Birmingham’s rise in several key rankings in recent years is partly attributable to its academic portfolio which provides the ultimate breadth and depth. While its programmes continue to encourage critical and creative thinking of the boldest kind, its research remains relevant and engaged, contributing to complex academic debates in virtually every field as well as the economy with their total research and knowledge transfer activity being worth £885 million.
At Birmingham Business School in particular, first-class research provides unique insights and expertise that positively impacts the business world locally, nationally and globally and helps shape more sustainable boardroom strategies and influences policies. Academics and leaders in business and policy are collaborating on research projects funded by the Research Councils, major trusts, professional institutions, government departments and the EU.
“For more than a century, research from our University has created a major impact on the city, the region and the world. Our early research has had a lasting impact on lives, culture, industry and society: our current research continues to create innovative, grounded and enduring solutions to some of the world’s biggest issues.” – University of Birmingham
The City Region Economic and Development Institute, otherwise known as City REDI, is at the heart of the University’s most current and ground-breaking research. Intently focused on promoting a comprehensive understanding of major city regions worldwide, City REDI stands as a key influencer of national and regional economic growth policies through the improvement of general practical policy.
“We have a lot of data about the region; we have a lot of understanding about the economic asset, the firms that are in the region. But actually understanding the more complex relationship between infrastructure, firms, transport systems, skills, there are gaps in our understanding of precisely how those things connect together,” says Simon Collinson, Director of the Institute.
“If we are going to attract more businesses into the region, for our direct investment, and attract more businesses that will employ people and add value, we need to understand what are our competitive advantages to attract those businesses, compared to these other places around the world,” he explains. “That’s the first ambition. The second big ambition is to understand precisely what is the connection between economic growth and public sector.”
By working alongside private, social and public sector representatives, as well as local and national governments in the UK and further afield, City REDI is providing data that both stimulates and shapes regional investments. Not only does this encourage growth that raises standards of well-being for all, it also serves as the prime example of how Birmingham’s research has a tangible impact on populations around the globe.
One of the Institute’s most recent conclusions lies in the advancement of citizen-centric urban services and end-user innovation within the city of Birmingham. Through extensive analysis of existing research outcomes, City REDI found that, within the public sector, citizens’ direct experience of ‘problem spaces’ within urban systems means they are more motivated to change existing services than the providers themselves (Noveck, 2016; Borgers et al., 2010).
As a result, collaboration between citizens and the public sector proves far more valuable and effective in the creation of these systems, allowing sector officials to capitalise on the creative ideas and innovation deeply ingrained within informed members of the public.
Research from the private sector extended these results, showing that the public not only help to innovate, but can also serve as powerful change agents, improving and inventing new and existing products. This process has been labelled ‘end-user innovation’ (Von Hippel, 2005), and is something that remains relatively unknown within the public sector.
“I think what we’re trying to create through City REDI is absolutely perfectly timed because of these big, big decisions that are going to be made on devolution, and the creation of a combined authority across the West Midlands,” says Martin Reeves, Chief Executive of Coventry County Council. “These are big, big decisions with big investment requirements, so it’s absolutely imperative that we understand what works,” he explains.
Covering a diverse range of fields like Systematic Economic Modelling; Policy Development and Evaluation; Spatial Planning; Public Sector Leadership; CSR and Social Enterprise; BME Enterprise; Inward Investment; High-value Manufacturing; and Supply Chain Analysis, City-REDI reinforces positive development in the West Midlands and beyond.