Discovery of a distinctive 'enterprise belt' surrounding Greater Birmingham helps create 96,000 new jobs that will add £14 billion to the economy.


  • The discovery and analysis of the flourishing economic belt E3I outside Birmingham was directly used in 2010 by policymakers and business leaders to extend the reach of the new Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), including a wider area than the urban centres.
  • The belt's inclusion in the GBSLEP means that the E3I region itself is the focus of an economic development strategy that aims to generate £14 billion gross value added growth by 2026, create well over 1 million square metres of floor space and up to 96,000 jobs.
  • The increased size and economic contribution of the area has enabled GBSLEP to secure government funding for regional development and to focus this both in the 'enterprise belt' and in central Birmingham. Funding initiatives include the 2012 City Deal, which aims to deliver 10,000 additional jobs in central Birmingham alone and leverage over £15 billion of private sector investment over 25 years. The City Deal has already delivered 3,560 apprenticeship grants.

About the research

In 2005 researchers from the University of Birmingham were studying the geography of businesses and economic activity in the West Midlands, when they discovered a distinctive 'enterprise belt' surrounding Birmingham - an outer arc of business and professional services extending between 20 and 40 kilometres from the city centre to the east and south.

In 2006 the researchers (John Bryson, Peter Daniels and Michael Taylor) found that economic activity in the West Midlands was shifting away from Birmingham and the Black Country, and instead moving to the outlying enterprise zone. The research, supported by an ESRC-funded PhD studentship and (later) an ESRC CASE studentship grant, revealed a development at odds with the regional economic policy, which at the time focused on encouraging business in the city centre.

The researchers named the growth zone the 'E3I belt' (Economic, Entrepreneurial, Environmental and Innovation), in order to track later policy references using this term. The concept of the belt and research into the economic geography of the area has influenced all economic development strategies for the region since. Without these findings, the GBSLEP would not have achieved the benefits of its greater scale.

In 2015, the University of Birmingham established City-REDI (Regional Economic Development Institute) as a £3.9 million initiative to further understand the functioning economic geography of the West Midlands region. The impact of existing and ongoing ESRC-funded research played a key role in this decision.