Over 200 alumni from Warwick, other West Midlands universities and friends of the West Midlands region gathered in Brussels on 28 January. The aim of the meeting was to highlight the importance of networking and to find out more about recent developments in the region.
The event - probably the largest ever organised for the West Midlands community in Belgium – was designed as a catalyst for building a strong and influential West Midlands network. It saw alumni from Warwick and other West Midlands universities, contacts from businesses, public bodies, the not-for-profit sector and European institutions come together to strengthen links and create opportunities for the region.
The event was hosted by the British ambassador to Belgium, Dr Rachel Aron, at the historic official British Residence in Brussels and organised by Advantage West Midlands, the West Midlands Higher Education Association and West Midlands in Europe. It illustrated the benefits that can be achieved through networking, such as investment opportunities, partnerships and policy influencing.
Warwick plus seven other universities from the region – Aston, Birmingham, Birmingham City University, Coventry, Open, Staffordshire and Wolverhampton – also took the opportunity to engage with their Belgian-based alumni, many of whom will be valuable supporters for the region.
Dr Aron congratulated those present, commenting “Networking, sharing experience, getting out there and meeting people is exactly what you should be doing to build relationships and opportunities, especially in this current economic climate”.
Introducing the event, Glynis Whiting, Director of West Midlands in Europe, highlighted the role that the region’s universities have played in putting the West Midlands on the map.
Ludo Segers, Advantage West Midlands’ Inward Investment Director for the Benelux countries, explained how partnerships are helping the West Midlands become a key player in low carbon innovation. He announced the good news that the region has successfully bid for a prestigious EU-funded ‘Climate Knowledge and Innovation Community'.
This project, funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, is worth an initial €120 million. It will allow the region’s businesses, universities and local authorities to collaborate with other European regions to help solve a key European and global problem.
It is hoped that this will become an annual event. It was a great opportunity to raise the profile of the West Midlands on the European stage and to celebrate the achievements of its alumni.