West Midlands mayor Andy Street has unveiled plans for a massive global ‘Tech’ festival – and predicted that the region’s booming innovators can help it overtake London in terms of growth.

‘FutureFest’ will supercharge and provide an ambitious global showcase for the West Midlands Tech sector, he claimed, which is worth over £15.3 billion and is the fastest growing sector of its kind in the UK.

Inspired by the SXSW festivals organised in Austin, Texas, Andy said West Midlands ‘FutureFest’ would provide a focal point for tech innovators from across the region – from ambitious start-ups to global brands – generating international connections and attracting investment.

Birmingham’s existing Tech Week is already the biggest regional tech event in the UK, with 7,500 people attending – but Andy’s FutureFest concept, which will be staged at venues across the region featuring Tech, Digital, Music, Film and TV and other overlapping sectors, will bring a step-change in ambition, by following the SXSW formula.

The last SXSW festival in Austin held more than 450 sessions over 9 days, with around 300,000 people attending – pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy.

An AI-generated concept image of what FutureFest could look like Supplied
An AI-generated concept image of what FutureFest could look like

Andy says staging a similar creative festival in the West Midlands – hosting numerous events on subjects as diverse as AI, Media, MedTech, Music, Advanced Manufacturing, Gaming and TV production – will supercharge the already booming Tech sector in the region, helping drive his ambition of overtaking London’s economic growth in the next decade.

He unveiled the plan for FutureFest while visiting Jaguar Land Rover’s state-of-the-art £1 billion Engine Manufacturing Centre (EMC) in Wolverhampton today (Wednesday 3 April).

The EMC will soon become the car giant’s Electric Drive Centre, using technology researched and designed in Coventry.

Andy said: “Our region was at the heart of the original Industrial Revolution, and now it is taking the lead in the next.

“Our Tech sector is the fastest growing in the UK, not only forming an incredibly important part of our economy, but also underpinning and driving growth in practically every other sector – from manufacturing to finance.

An AI-generated concept image of what FutureFest could look like Supplied
An AI-generated concept image of what FutureFest could look like

“FutureFest will help us showcase the amazing developments that are happening here, put us in the global spotlight, highlight why this is a great place to base a Tech firm and draw in even more investment into the sector.

“We are also seeing fantastic growth in areas like Digital, Culture, Media and Music, which have very clear overlaps with the broader Tech sector – so we have all the ingredients to put on an incredible festival.

“We have shown, through the Commonwealth Games, that we know how to stage a major event here, and I believe FutureFest can become a massive international draw for the West Midlands – bringing in huge numbers, driving business opportunities and economic activity.

“We have a brilliant story to tell, and FutureFest will give us the platform to tell it.”

Explaining his broader plan for backing the Tech and Digital sector, Andy also revealed pledges to double down on investment in the region’s pioneering digital bootcamps, to increase internet speeds and eliminate black spots and radically improve careers advice for young people considering careers in digital and tech.

But he also stressed that the boom in Tech would drive his wider economic ambitions for the West Midlands.

Andy Street: "Within a decade, I want the West Midlands to overtake London in terms of growth."Supplied
Andy Street: “Within a decade, I want the West Midlands to overtake London in terms of growth.”

He said: “Back in the 1960s, the West Midlands was one of the wealthiest regions in Europe, but our economy declined relative to other places over the last sixty years.

“However, in the decade before COVID, this was the fastest growing region outside the capital. Now, driven by these booming sectors, I want us to regain that regional position, then challenge London – creating tens of thousands more well-paid jobs for local people.

“The success we are seeing in our Tech sector is down to innovation and ambition, and I think we need to be just as ambitious about our economy.

“Within a decade, I want the West Midlands to overtake London in terms of growth, reclaiming our place as an economic powerhouse within the UK.

“This has always been a place of innovation. The growth we are seeing in these sectors shows it still is. By staging events like FutureFest, we can generate ideas, attract investment and supercharge our economic ambitions.”

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