Bridging Global Gaps – The essential role of translation services for Birmingham’s businesses

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More foreign languages are spoken in Birmingham than in any other city in the UK. This makes it the ideal base for many global companies. It also creates an increasing demand for translation services by Birmingham businesses with an eye on the future.

Because Birmingham is home to people from 187 different countries. Its economic landscape is incredibly diverse too, making it one of the UK’s most significant business hubs.

Some of the biggest companies in key industries like manufacturing, technology, retail, and healthcare are based in Birmingham. Drawn by the city’s stunning growth (it’s forecast to reach 1.24 million people by 2030), logistic connections, and young and diverse workforce.

However, for all the strength and vitality it produces, Birmingham’s diversity is not without its linguistic challenges. Yet for business leaders, the need to serve – often international – clients in their preferred languages can be a huge opportunity too.

If you are an account manager in a Birmingham-based business, you almost certainly know this all too well. You’ll also be aware that unlocking the smooth integration of translation services will be the way to promote both local and international business growth in the future.

The vibrant business ecosystem of Birmingham

Birmingham is one of the first “super-diverse” cities in the UK – over 51% of residents are from minority ethnic backgrounds. It is also one of the youngest – over 20% of Birmingham residents are under fifteen years old

That diversity is reflected in the city’s vibrant business ecosystem. A long-established manufacturing centre, the so-called “City of a Thousand Trades” still employs over 100 000 people in the sector.

This benefits the UK economy to the tune of billions of pounds every year. Indeed, the West Midlands as a whole was responsible for around 8.73% of the total export goods created by the country in 2013.

But the modern Birmingham economy is much more than its manufacturing sector. Birmingham is:

  • One of the few areas designated as a Fintech hub by the UK government
  • A centre for Foreign Direct Investment (181 local FDI projects begun in 2022)
  • Home to one of the largest shopping centres in Europe
  • A global convention capital, attracting huge numbers of international leaders
  • The site of the largest medtech cluster in the UK

From exporting goods and financial services around the world to serving a diverse local community, all of this has huge implications for the utility and value of translation services to Birmingham businesses.

Demand for translation services is prime in key industries

Birmingham’s GVA (Growth Value Added) is expected to have risen by 1.1% in the latter part of 2023. This means the city’s contribution to GDP according to this key measure will now top £29 billion.

That growth is, of course, being driven by the industries that are key to the local economy. These include those sectors where leading account managers are starting to talk about the extra growth that reliable translation services can drive, such as:

Manufacturing and engineering

Birmingham has been synonymous with manufacturing and engineering for centuries. During the Industrial Revolution, Birmingham was the world’s leading city for the manufacture of metals and metalware – chiefly brass, steel, coins, jewellery, arms, and pins.

This heritage remains strong and the manufacturing sector is still a massive local employer. Indeed, the city is still the UK’s preeminent industrial market.

Some of the manufacturing and engineering sectors with a particularly notable presence in Birmingham include:

  1. Aerospace -the Midlands is very much the centre of the UK aerospace industry. 300 specialist businesses focus mainly on metals and composite parts as well as R&D. This adds up to one of the greatest aerospace technology outputs in the world.
  2. Automotive – around 60% of the UK’s automotive R&D happens in Birmingham. More than 1400 specialist businesses – including Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota, and JCB – fulfil almost every part of the automotive supply chain between them.
  3. Jewellery – the city still manufactures around 40% of all the jewellery made in the UK, most of it within an easy walk of the city centre. Birmingham Jewellery Quarter is the largest hub of such businesses in Europe.
  4. Engineering specialists – from electronics to hydraulic and pneumatic systems, Birmingham is home to a broad variety of engineering companies. The industrial areas near Grand Union Canal and the Redfern Road Industrial estate are particular hubs.
  5. Food and drink – Birmingham’s food and drink manufacturing companies provide thousands of jobs in the local area. Cadbury is perhaps the best-known local firm, but numerous international brands including Muller and Coors also have large facilities here.
  6. Knowledge and academia – Birmingham has five universities and another fifteen are located relatively close by. These produce engineering graduates and conduct world-leading research in a vast range of fields.

For businesses in all of these fields, translation services are vital for maintaining compliance standards and guaranteeing clear communication between teams and suppliers in addition to the usual necessity for effective localised marketing.

Technology and startups

Birmingham’s IT and digital and creative media sector is on the rise in a big way. Around 8% of that whopping £29 billion GVA is IT and digital-based. In the UK, that’s a figure surpassed only by London.

The gaming industry is a particular strength of the local economy, with 25% of the UK games market output being created in Birmingham. International publishers including Sega, Codemasters, CentreSoft, and Blitz all have facilities in the local area.

This is all helped by local tech innovation and knowledge drivers like Birmingham’s Digital Media Academy and Birmingham Science Park, a hub located near Aston University.

In fact, the huge growth of the sector is squeezing the local supply of commercial office space for technology companies and startups. Such is the number of entrepreneurs, creatives, and innovators drawn to the local area.

As with all digital media and content though, the ability to reach a global audience is the factor that drives success. The breakthrough tech brands of recent years would never have expanded to their current size without effectively localising their digital products for international markets.

Retail and e-commerce

Back in 1985, Birmingham received around £3 billion of investment that it spent on major projects that have resulted in its current status as a retail giant.

  • The International Convention Centre is a world-class venue, the home of 42% of all UK conference trade.
  • The NEC (National Exhibition Centre) is the largest exhibition venue in the UK.
  • The Bullring is the UK’s largest shopping centre, attracting more than 36.5 million visitors in its opening year alone.
  • The Mailbox and the Castle Vale Fort are also major shopping destinations.

All told, the city is the most-visited shopping destination in the UK outside of London. This looks set only to grow, making the local area a massive and highly attractive market.

In more recent years, the city has become known for its digital and e-commerce sector too. Over 1000 locally-based e-commerce businesses generate over £18 million in revenue between them.

Much like other digital industries, international e-commerce businesses benefit hugely from translation services that enable them to increase brand awareness and interactions and perfect their multilingual SEO by engaging with consumers in their preferred language.

Healthcare and medical Services

Birmingham and the West Midlands are home to more medtech businesses than anywhere else in the UK, including London. Healthcare R&D – and regulation and policy formation – are big businesses in the city.

There are many reasons for this. First, the University of Birmingham is a noted pioneer in this field. The Birmingham Health Partners NHS trust has a facility close to the campus and the two have launched a combined research facility, the Precision Health Technologies Accelerator.

All of this research is frequently carried out by healthcare leaders and researchers from all over the world, relying on the highest quality academic translations to ensure clear communication.

In addition, the region’s diversity makes it a fairly representative sample of the world population. This has been judged useful for medical research and trials.

That diversity also sparks another need for high-quality medical translation – simply to deliver everyday healthcare. Examples of poor translation resulting in bad healthcare outcomes abound, making good language service support vital for all medical practitioners.

Legal and financial Services

More than 48 400 businesses in the West Midlands are part of its BPFS (Business, Professional, and Financial Services) cluster. This cluster is one of the biggest in Europe – and also one of the fastest growing, expanding more than 30% in recent years.

Birmingham has been leading the way in finance for centuries. Lloyds Bank and Midlands Bank (which became HSBC) were founded in the city in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, household names like KPMG, PwC, Ernst & Young, and Deutsche Bank have big local offices.

Together, legal and financial companies employ over 111 000 local people (23% of the total workforce!). This may be partly due to Birmingham’s five universities. Between them, these produce one of the UK’s highest concentrations of business and financial services graduates.

There is also Birmingham’s already-mentioned large number of incubators and innovation hubs. This has created an expanding reputation for international Fintech investment and forex trading.

As might be expected, international firms like these rely heavily on specialist financial and legal translation services that are able to handle the sector’s unique technical needs and vocabulary.

The strategic role of account managers

In all of the above sectors and more, account managers play their usual critical role as the main point of contact between clients and businesses.

As good account managers are only too aware, their job involves carefully listening to the needs of clients and making sure those needs are met as swiftly and smoothly as possible.

For many account managers in economies like Birmingham’s, where companies do business internationally and locally with clients who have diverse language preferences, one of the most commonly recognised needs is for translation.

The market power of communicating with someone in their preferred language should never be overlooked. Many companies have achieved greater success when account managers have proactively offered language support to key clients or prospective clients.

This frequently involves finding a reliable translation partner that can be trusted to deliver localised materials that utilise relevant subject matter expertise on-time and with a budgetary outlay that makes sense.

The essential role of translation services for Birmingham businesses

Birmingham businesses that want to be competitive in a globalised world understand the value of translation services. This is underscored in key sectors of the local economy, like those listed above.

As a translation company that already supports companies in sectors vital to Birmingham, Kwintessential understands the needs of diverse businesses. To meet set deadlines, precise client requirements, and to base translations on subject matter expertise in specific industries.

For example, our work with Marks & Spencer, Lidl, and others gives us deep insight into the retail sector. Equally, the specialist legal translations we have provided for clients including Irwin Mitchell Solicitors mean we have expertise in that field too.

Account managers, experienced in recognising client needs, have a pivotal role to play in ensuring Birmingham businesses can leverage translation’s power to grow. This will be vital if they’re to benefit from all of the advantages a city like this has to offer.


If you’re an account manager who already understands the essential role of translation services for Birmingham’s businesses, we’d love to hear from you.

If you’re unsure as to the value translation could provide for your clients, we want to hear from you even more!


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