West Midlands based automotive supply chain support organisation Accelerate is to cease operating at the end of this month after funding for the 14-year old initiative was not renewed.
Started in 1996, the Birmingham Chamber backed initiative was tasked with helping automotive supply chain companies become more competitive on a global basis through lean manufacturing, diversification and innovation.
The body appears to be one of the first victims of the pressure to cut public spending.
It has channelled over £80m of investment into the West Midlands’ supply chain which it says has resulted in £534m worth of new sales, created over 4,000 new jobs and safeguarded more than 29,000 jobs.
“All of this has been achieved against a backdrop of major consolidation within the region’s automotive sector, which has seen the closures of the MG Rover, LDV and Browns Lane manufacturing plants and the worst global recession in our lifetime,” said Accelerate in a statement.
With the UK automotive industry still reeling from recession, a spokesperson for Accelerate told The Manufacturer: “It’s a shame that the closure has come at a time when the organisation is arguably needed more than ever.”
On Wednesday, Nikki Rooke of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders told TM that one of the key priorities of the Automotive Council – co-chaired by Lord Mandelson – is to communicate the funding and innovation initiatives available to the automotive supply chain in order to prepare them to take advantage of ultra low carbon opportunities.
Accelerate’s spokesperson said: “One of the lessons we’ve learnt over the years is how difficult it can be to get industry specific messages out to the regions from central government in London. That is something that we’ve played a part in and certainly some of the communication lines to west Midlands automotive will now be stretched.”
No dedicated automotive support organisation will now exist in the West Midlands but the Regional Development Agency Advantage West Midlands says it is the process of setting up a faction that will perform in a similar manner to Accelerate.
A spokesperson for AWM said: “The current Accelerate contract with Birmingham Chamber finishes at the end of March, but there are advanced plans for a refocused automotive industry support programme to be delivered by the Manufacturing Advisory Service from June, subject to final agreement. There will be interim arrangements in place from early April to ensure a continuity of service.”
He labelled Accelerate a “great success”.
The SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said “SMMT is disappointed to see the end of Accelerate and appreciates all the good work it has done for business in the West Midlands.
“SMMT is working closely with the Automotive Council to ensure companies are aware of the new opportunities emerging from its work on new technology and supply chain developments. We are confident that Advantage West Midlands and other business support organisations will work with us to meet the needs of SMEs in the region.”