A local authority has come up with an innovative way to give West Midlands firms a global advantage, and help them access new international markets.

Sandwell Council is pioneering the West Midlands Virtual Hospital (WMVH) to show the world that our region’s businesses are capable of supplying everything needed to design, manufacture and run a 21st-century healthcare facility.

The online digital 3D ‘walkthrough’ hospital is easily navigated by users, who can click on any part of the building, room or piece of technology to access details of a local firm who can supply the required components.

Meanwhile, the WMVH platform is helping West Midlands firms to adopt Building Information Technology. This is crucial. BIM is a universal means for sharing digital designs that will become compulsory for all capital build projects by 2016. To be able to compete in the global marketplace, every construction, manufacturing and engineering firm will need to get to grips with BIM in the coming months.

International spotlight

Jan Britton, CEO of Sandwell Council, said the WMVH will cast an international spotlight on the talented firms here in the West Midlands.

“Our region is fortunate to have some of the UK’s brightest minds in clinical design, advanced manufacturing, built-environment, medical and science technologies. The West Midlands Virtual Hospital has created a visually appealing digital directory of our talented firms, which can be used by hospital and healthcare buyers across the world.”

Councillor Ian Jones, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for jobs and the economy said the WMVH has significant potential to create international growth opportunities for local businesses.

“The West Midlands Virtual Hospital could be a catalyst for design and procurement best practice, allowing our small and medium-size enterprises to prosper both in home markets and overseas”.

Real-life business opportunities

It is expected that having a presence on the WMVH, plus the necessary skills, policies and capabilities, could translate into real-life business opportunities for qualified firms. The WMVH is being pioneered alongside the development of a real hospital – the £353m Midland Metropolitan in Smethwick – which will require thousands of components, from building materials and fabrications through to interior furnishings, equipment and medical technology.

Suppliers who are registered with the WMVH, which is entirely free to use, will be able to see the opportunities stemming from the Midland Metropolitan, and have the chance to tender for them.

Award-winning

Behind the scenes, Sandwell Council is working hard to ensure local SMEs are skilled, confident and qualified to bid for the hospital work. The local authority has partnered with BIM experts and principal contractors such as Carillion and Laing O’Rourke to hold free BIM workshops around the Black Country.

Sandwell Council’s innovative work on the WMVH has already received an award from the Federation of Small Businesses and secured a shortlisting in the 2014 Procurement Leaders Awards, alongside some of the world’s most recognisable brands.

To learn more about the BIM workshops or to sign up for free as a supplier to the WMVH, visit www.westmidlandsvirtualhospital.co.uk