Professor Nigel Driffield's contribution to developing Greater Birmingham's inward investment strategy helped the area become one of the most successful in Europe for attracting business investment.


  • Working through the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and with Marketing Birmingham (set up by the local council to promote inward investment), Professor Driffield helped develop an inward investment strategy that has attracted £150 million over the past two years.
  • In the World's Most Competitive Cities Report 2015 Birmingham was ranked as the highest-performing city in Western Europe for its competitiveness in attracting inward investment.
  • Professor Driffield's positioning paper on GBSLEP's inward investment strategy post-Brexit formed part of Birmingham's £1billion bid for local growth funds.
  • His work with UK Trade & Investment (now the Department for International Trade) and business investment agencies to identify foreign firms with a high probability of expanding internationally helped attract six firms to the UK, employing almost 10,000 people to date.
  • His research on the likely impact of Brexit on inward investment has informed the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), sectoral bodies, professional service firms, as well as the Government and investment promotion agencies.

"Professor Driffield has been instrumental in helping to shape the Greater Birmingham project." (Steve Hollis, Deputy Chairman, Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership)

About the research

Research over 20 years into how inward investment in areas benefits the host country has enabled Professor Driffield to provide the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership with crucial insights in its bid to attract investment.

“My contribution was to facilitate a better understanding of inward investment, how to attract it and how to retain it,” he explains. “The crucial point for Birmingham in understanding what inward investors are looking for and why a location is attractive (or not), was to stop focusing on traditional sectors and ‘what they used to do’, and consider what businesses could be looking for in terms of new sectors such as logistics and advanced manufacturing. These ideas were incorporated into what has proved to be a highly successful inward investment strategy.”

Professor Driffield's work also plays a part in the Greater Birmingham and West Midlands regional ambition to gain devolution from Whitehall over economic policy. “To be successful there has to be solid evidence backed up by leading research,” he explains. “My analysis of local sector performance and the region's capacity for internationalisation, in terms of both exports and inward investment, have helped the West Midlands to put forward an informed bid for devolution.”

Gaining traction for his ideas, and establishing credibility with the private sector and private sector-led bodies such as Local Enterprise Partnerships has posed Professor Driffield with one of his biggest challenges. “There is a concern that academics will want to talk theory or be obsessed with the particular nuances of their results,” he says. “To overcome this it's been vital to offer practical solutions based on academic evidence, and by serving on LEP boards to be seen to deliver on projects of strategic importance locally.”