Cities, or at least areas within them, around the UK have been badged in recent times as ‘Tech Cities’. Birmingham has missed out on that badge largely because the means of measurement applied by others fails to recognise this city’s strengths. This is not helped by the fact that Birmingham’s successful tech businesses – of which there are many – are not sufficiently trumpeted.
However, if we consider the four elements of a knowledge economy (private sector, public sector, academe and citizens), then Birmingham can readily proclaim itself to be a ‘Knowledge City’. Notable activity dates back to 1765 with the formation of the Lunar Society, and Birmingham’s industry as a driver of the industrial revolution. Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in Europe. We have five universities and are the second largest city in the UK.
The citizens coming together with the other three elements creates the quadruple helix. When energised into additive activity this will ensure Birmingham’s economic success.
The Smart City – another badge – is a horizontally connected city promoting sharing and collaboration. Such an environment plays to the needs and ways of working of the knowledge industries. So if Birmingham, by which I mean Greater Birmingham in the widest possible context – dare I say the Midlands – moves to breakdown the silos created over the years and puts forward one joined up infrastructure drawing on the innovation, creativity and industry of all its citizens, then the powerhouse that this already represents will become visible.
We can point to a wide range of successful enterprise within the locale; not based on single technology hot spots but on a successful knowledge economy that generates wealth. So the reality is Greater Birmingham figures as a peak – not as a trough – between London and the Greater South East and the Northern Cities… and we should celebrate this.