Finance · 27 July 2017

Midlands Engine threatens to run out of steam as concept fails to reach to founders

Wide angle view of the cityscape of Birmingham in the West Midlands. Landmarks include the Rotunda,  St. Martin's Church,  and the Bullring Shopping Centre.
The government believes it can get more of the Midlands economy, currently worth 218bn
Regional initiatives to boost industry in the North of England and the Midlands have so far failed to cut through to small business owners across the UK, according to new research.

A nationwide survey of founders, undertaken by Bibby Financial Services (BFS), uncovered significantly lowawareness of the government’s flagship regional schemes, with the concept of a Midlands Engine particularly struggling to establish itself. Some two-thirds of owners in Britain had not heard of the initiative.

Even across the Midlands, over half of founders were unaware of how they could expect to benefit from investment schemes.

A 250m Midlands Engine Investment Fund was announced in the 2016 Spring Budget, but has since suffered a number of setbacks. Most recently, it was revealed that just 60 per cent of the moneywill be allocatedto small business owners.

Now, the government-backed British Business Bank (BBB), financing the fund, has confirmed applications forthe remainingbudget will openin August.

Meanwhile, the Northern Powerhouse has also struggledto take off. Despite finance and development schemes already in place, almost half of owners were unaware of the concept.

The two regional initiatives were key hallmarks of the Conservative government led by David Cameron and George Osbourne. Policy makers pledged to engage with business owners across both regions to deliver tailored strategies to support enterprise, but many? local entrepreneurs still appeared unconsulted.

According to the research, a third of founders in the North West, a quarter in the North East and almost a third in Yorkshire and Humberside and never heard of the Northern Powerhouse.

Commenting on the findings, Edward Winterton, UK CEO of BFS, said development strategies were crucial in driving regional economies and closing the UK’s investment gaps.

‘such strategies, however, are currently on unsteady ground, he added, warning of the lack of awareness from those the government has tried to target.

it is vital that [business owners] in these regions see tangible benefits from the billions of pounds that have been earmarked, but this must start with awareness of the opportunities available to them and an understanding of how they can benefit.



Praseeda Nair is an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.