Our Ask from the Next Mayor of West Midlands

As the Mayoral election is approaching, techUK asked the Centre for the New Midlands for their ‘asks’ of the winning candidate.

The UK strategy towards developing knowledge economy and innovation as a superpower, within the international stage, is heavily dependent on the advancement in technology and sciences to ensure social and economical growth, whilst driving innovation and productivity across the regions.

The West Midlands tech sector is currently worth £15bn to the UK economy. With further investment in areas such as the region’s: potential Gigafactory, 5G and connectivity infrastructure, National Physics Laboratory, innovation centres, skills development and support for our SMEs, the region has been seen as the pivot of UK knowledge economy and innovation.

techUK’s Local Digital Index demonstrated that the West Midlands has some significant strengths noting “the West Midlands CA area has strong digital infrastructure scores with gigabit broadband at over 88% coverage and 5G coverage over 95%” but also need to improve finance and investment for firms in the region. Additionally the region has a Digital GVA of £2,055 per head, above the UK median but behind the North West and almost £500 per head behind the East of England.

As the West Midlands region gears up for its Mayoral election in May, the digital leaders board of Centre for New Midlands think tank believes that the next Mayor of the West Midlands should address the key points from the following areas:


Complex Adaptive Systems Engineering – Professor Ardavan Amini

As technological capabilities are developed to address societal and business challenges, there is a need to simplify our systems through system engineering approaches and system thinking, in order to capture and transfer the knowledge needed for optimal innovation and productivity of solutions which is key to our future success. 

The WM Mayor should invest in regional programs and projects with the aim to develop skills and capabilities in systems engineering and systems thinking as future thought leaders with the tech sector, and to balance pure technological advancement, and enable human creativity and foster an environment with a focus on critical thinking and problem solving behaviour.

Cyber Security – Professor Steve Furnell

In cyber security, we believe that the focus should be to address the fundamentals, advocating for a baseline cyber literacy for individuals and cyber resilience of organisations.  One of the headline findings from the most recent UK Cyber Security Breaches Survey was a decline in basic cyber hygiene practices amongst UK organisations (particularly amongst micro businesses).  This included areas such as timely application of security updates, network protection, and issues around authentication and access rights.  Unfortunately, inattention to basic safeguards leaves exploitable vulnerabilities, which can in turn lead to the very types of cyber breach reported elsewhere in the same survey.  The fact that many incidents track back to vulnerabilities involving people also highlights the benefit of having a more cyber-literate society, which would work for the benefit of citizens themselves, and the organisations they work in.

It is all too easy for cyber security to be set aside as something for another day, particularly with budgetary challenges and competing priorities, but to overlook it opens the door to problems that can affect business at a more fundamental level.  Helping to encourage core cyber security actions at the organisational level (e.g. addressing Cyber Essentials), and promoting accompanying awareness for the people within it (e.g. following the advice from Cyber Aware) will work towards building a more fundamentally protected and resilient context for ‘business as usual’ to operate in.

Digital Transformation – Tracy Pound

Digital Transformation is such a widely abused term, that many have stopped listening. But in an increasingly digital, fast paced world, tech cannot be ignored and we are struggling to prepare and skill up to face the challenges of today and the future.

Digital Transformation is transitioning from paper based, or manual non-integrated systems, into digitally streamlined and effective processes. This then enables real time data analysis in order to support future growth initiatives, prevent failures that result in a poor customer experience or the loss of a job or business. As much as Digital Transformation applies to private sector businesses, it is equally as important to the public sector and to government. However, the problem is that it needs significant investment for an organisation to understand: a) how its people and systems are currently performing, and b) what and how to digitally transform.  Organisations of every size suffer from a lack of digital literacy, leading to poor digital transformation – smaller businesses because they lack the time, expertise and understanding of the benefits, and bigger businesses because often their staffing levels mask inefficiencies, and they become too big to change. 


Over the last 24 years of running a business in the region, I’ve been a consultant on initiatives funded by councils, local government, Business Link and ERDF, some of which have been more successful than others. Given that real change takes time and therefore costs more, what focus will there be on helping educate organisations across the board on the benefits of digital transformation, and what practical support will be available to help organisations embed sustainable, long lasting change?

VR & AR Technologies – Sargithan Senthilselvan

In the West Midlands, leveraging Digital Twin technology presents an unprecedented opportunity to revolutionise travel and tourism while enhancing city planning strategies. By implementing Digital Twins, the Mayor's office can create immersive, virtual replicas of key landmarks, attractions, and transportation networks across the region. These digital representations enable tourists to explore the West Midlands virtually, offering a preview of popular destinations and facilitating trip planning. By integrating real-time data feeds into these Digital Twins, visitors can access up-to-date information on transportation schedules, crowd densities, and event schedules, optimising their travel experiences while reducing congestion and improving the overall efficiency of transportation networks.

In terms of city planning, Digital Twins provide invaluable insights into urban infrastructure and development projects. By simulating various scenarios within the virtual environment, city planners can assess the potential impacts of new construction projects, transportation upgrades, or public space renovations before implementation. This proactive approach allows for more informed decision-making, ensuring that development initiatives align with sustainability goals, enhance community well-being, and foster economic growth. Furthermore, Digital Twins facilitate collaboration among stakeholders, including government agencies, businesses, and residents, promoting transparency and inclusivity in the planning process. By harnessing the power of Digital Twins, the Mayor of the West Midlands can pave the way for a smarter, more resilient, and visitor-friendly region, driving sustainable growth and prosperity for years to come.

Internet of Things – Haydn Povey

When it comes to IoT, driving connectivity for public good is important in supporting social innovation, enabling transport integration, and supporting net-zero initiatives with smart energy innovation.

From a West Midlands perspective, we believe the Mayor should focus on critical projects that demonstrate the possibilities of IoT in these crucial domains, enabling local skills development, and industrial leadership in key domains including connectivity and device security.

Digital for SMEs – Hollie Whittles

When it comes to digital for SMEs skills and connectivity our key.

On skills, apprenticeships are a great way to help bridge the digital skills gap.  The AI era has ushered in the need for digital transformation. Organisations need to adapt their approach and upskill their workforce in order to thrive. For West Midlands businesses, leveraging apprenticeships is not just a strategic move; it is a great solution to help unlock the potential of digital skills and securing a competitive edge.

On connectivity we need to ensure when 3G is switched off that the rural parts of the West Midlands will still have mobile coverage, there’s too much emphasis on upgrading the cities and not addressing mobile and broadband issues in the outer regions.


Find out more about techUK’s Mayoral Manifesto to support vibrant digital economies and better public services by following this link.

Centre for New Midlands-logo.png
Matt Robinson

Matt Robinson

Head of Nations and Regions, techUK

Matt is techUK’s Head of Nations and Regions.

Matt is leading techUK’s work with members and stakeholders across the UK to increase the Local Digital Capital across the UK’s nation and regions, build communities and to ensure that digital technology plays a key part the post-COVID-19 levelling-up recovery.

Prior to joining techUK, Matt worked for several national education charities and membership bodies to develop their regional partnerships with schools, academy trusts, local authorities, and other stakeholders. He’s also worked with local authority leaders and other stakeholders to engage communities, work with elected members and improve public services.

He holds a BA in Politics from the University of York and an MA in International Relations from the University of Leeds. Away from work he’s a keen football fan and golfer.

If you’d like to find out more about our work in the nations and regions please get in touch with Matt:

[email protected]

Read lessmore

Ileana Lupsa

Ileana Lupsa

Programme Manager, Local Public Services and Nations and Regions, techUK

Ileana Lupsa is the Programme Manager for Local Public Services and Nations and Regions, at techUK.

Ileana studied electronics, telecommunications and IT as an undergraduate, followed by an MSc in engineering and project management at Coventry University.

She refined her programme management expertise through her most recent roles working in the automotive industry.

Ileana is passionate about sustainability and creating a positive impact globally through innovation.

[email protected]

Read lessmore

techUK – Building Stronger Local Economies 


techUK champions the tech sector throughout the UK. We work with local authorities, devolved government, and local and national policy makers to advocate for the tech sector in strengthening economic growth and resilience. We provide opportunities for our members and local stakeholders to meet, build relationships, and collaborate to drive forward local projects. For more information or to get in touch, please visit our Nations and Regions Hub and click ‘contact us’. 

Upcoming Nations and Regions events:

Latest news and insights:

Get our Nations and Regions insights straight to your inbox:

Sign-up to get the latest updates and opportunities from our Nations and Regions programme.


Contact the team:

Matt Robinson

Matt Robinson

Head of Nations and Regions, techUK

Ileana Lupsa

Ileana Lupsa

Programme Manager, Local Public Services and Nations and Regions, techUK

Learn more about our Nations and Regions campaign: