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Warwick talks skills, innovation and expertise at Conservative Party Conference event

Stuart Croft, Bob Sleigh, Izzi Seccombe and Marc ReevesInnovation, skills and expertise were key themes at Warwick’s Conservative Party Conference fringe event on Powering Productivity.

The University of Warwick hosted a packed fringe event on “Powering Productivity” at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Monday 3 October 2016. The audience of elected councillors, policy makers and other public sector representatives came to hear how devolution of power to the region will better enable decisions to be made about how to drive it forward.

Sharing the stage with Councillor Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council (WCC), and Councillor Bob Sleigh, Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Leader of Solihull Council, Warwick’s Vice-Chancellor and President Stuart Croft championed the West Midlands region and the role that the University of Warwick can play in its development. The session was chaired by Marc Reeves, Editor in Chief of Trinity Mirror Midlands.

Opening the session, key comments from Stuart’s speech included emphasising the University’s expertise and its commitment to applying this knowledge for the benefit of the LEPs, WMCA and the Midlands Engine. He also shared how Warwick is supporting and encouraging innovation, saying, “It’s absolutely critical if we’re going to have the kind of progress that we want to see. We’re transferring innovation from research into practice with the National Automotive Innovation Centre being developed on campus and the ESIF-funded programme supporting SME growth with WCC through our Science Park.”

Stuart also explained the role that Warwick is playing in skills development in the region, including its part in creating two new engineering-focused schools, the WMG Academy for Young Engineers – the first of which was opened in Coventry, and the second in Solihull. “As a university, we engage deeply with schools in our region, and the skills agenda is something that really motivates us, especially the social mobility dimension. We’ve also got our first degree apprenticeship, the Applied Engineering Programme, up and running, and we see the opportunity to develop more of these.”

Stuart also outlined how Warwick Medical School (WMS) is supporting regional healthcare initiatives. “We are part of the WMCA’s Mental Health Commission, and WMS is working with Warwick Business School to address the challenge of improving mental health provision in our region, exploring the connection between wellbeing and productivity,” said Stuart. In addition, Stuart referenced the Coventry City of Culture 2021 Bid, saying, “We believe that the work we and Coventry University can do to help win the competition will give us the opportunity to drive Coventry to be a top 10 city in England in the next ten years. That’s a fantastic ambition.”

Stuart’s comments were echoed by Councillor Izzi Seccombe, who said, “Warwickshire, Coventry and now the wider region with WMCA, has a fantastic future ahead. The partner work that we do with our universities to drive forward that aspiration is critical.”

Councillor Bob Sleigh also referenced the importance of Warwick’s impact on the region, saying, “This is the decade for the West Midlands. We have some of the finest universities in the world – they’re innovative, and they know what we need for the future. WMCA’s role is to invest in that to bring those innovative ideas from the lab bench to the factory floor.”