Business Desk Roundtable focuses on ambition and levelling up

There is a sense of ambition in the Liverpool City Region over its massive potential in new industries and ground-breaking technologies.

A prestigious round-table of high profile business and public sector leaders spoke of their hopes for the region in the latest Invest North conference organised by at the recently-opened Paddington Village Novotel in the heart of the city’s burgeoning Knowledge Quarter.

John Leake, business growth director at Sci-Tech Daresbury, said:

“There’s a focus around the areas of strength within the city region, whether that’s around infectious diseases, around materials development. investments at Sci-Tech Daresbury, around high performance computing and AI and quantum computing.

“A number of things have been put into place, setting up Lyva Labs, the Seed Fund and the Angel Network, which are really important to getting those companies moving, but then actually seeing those companies grow and scale and making sure that they do that in the city region. I think we’ve now got the story and the opportunities for companies to do that.”

Investment is the keystone for developing new industries and technologies, and Tim Newns, managing director of the Government’s Office for Investment, said his main role is looking at how to win transformational investment for the regions.

He said:

“Part of that is about working with some of the regions across the UK to take the internationally significant propositions that the likes of Liverpool has in scenarios like net zero and also life sciences, and take them further on the international stage.

“But also with some of the investors that are looking at the UK just making sure those propositions are really getting to them beyond just the Golden Triangle propositions in life sciences, for example. So we’re also working with some of the big capital funds globally, as well.”

He has struck a deal over the past 12 months with the likes of Abu Dhabi, creating a strategic investment partnership with Qatar. He said: “The Abu Dhabi fund is £10bn, of which £800m is life sciences-orientated. So, great opportunities for how we try and get some of that capital into the city region.”

Tom Sumptser is head of private markets with Phoenix Group which boasts 13 million customers, equivalent to £270bn-worth of pension funds. He said he works with Tim to find the right opportunities in regions like Liverpool to make vital investments.

“We spend a lot of time with Tim and the Department of Trade to understand how we can be crowded in to the various regions. We’re also a sponsor of this event, because we strongly believe that if we can hear where those pipeline of opportunities exist within the various regions, how we can form greater relationships that we and our industry can use the billions that we have available and put it to good use, as opposed to just finding that economic return – which of course is a big focus of ours and people’s pensions in the end – but do it with a social purpose.”

Prof Janet Hemingway, director of the iiCON Consortium, which brings together industry, academia and the NHS to accelerate products and innovations linked to infection control, said the region is now poised to play an even bigger world role in areas like life sciences. She said:

“What I’ve seen over the 20 years I’ve been here now is we’ve moved from a fragmented sort of set up to now we’ve got a story, we’ve got a strategy, we actually need to deliver that strategy, but the bones are all there and everybody is getting behind it.

“And I think you’ve only got to look around the table here and see the group of people who pull together to see that that is something that we need to now deliver on. So we haven’t yet delivered, we’ve started to deliver, but there is a huge sort of big step that we should take.

“Sometimes people think too small and want to take baby steps. I think we’re now ready for some of those bigger steps. And we ought to be grabbing those, because if we don’t, then we’ll run out of momentum if we’re not careful. So I think there’s there’s opportunity here.”

Tom Le Quesne, special adviser with Lloyds Bank, pledged his support to help support transformational change for the region, saying:

“We’re really keen to understand where we can partner further with others. We’re really up for challenging, stretching conversations to take that further.”

Neil Murray, chief executive of Impact Data Metrics, also heads a biotech and infectious disease company, and he stressed the importance of growth funding: “Getting seed capital is easy. It’s the next stage that enables companies to grow and prosper and develop into businesses that will employ hundreds of people, not the two or three or four or 10. And that’s the real challenge that we have.”

Alongside life sciences and tech, the region could also be poised to play an important role in the development of quantum computing, which utilises the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics to perform calculations.

Tim Newns said:

“There are a number of companies globally, looking at quantum at the moment, a number of them looking at the UK and interested but not having quite worked out yet what the funding proposition is for that. So we’ve just really got to push to make sure that the infrastructure investment is going in, as well as these extra initiatives that will support levelling up properly, and commercial investment properly, so that propositions that are here can absolutely thrive.”

John Leake, from Sci-Tech Daresbury, added:

“Tim’s right in terms of quantum computing – massive opportunities. There will be some exciting news coming forward on that next year.”

Colin Sinclair, CEO of Knowledge Quarter Liverpool, picked up on the links between forging new opportunities with the right funding:

“Lloyds have a mandate for regional regeneration. If we tried to get anything that we do in Liverpool through a normal credit committee, it’s a bit tricky, but if Lloyds and others can take that regeneration role, we can be transformational.

“So those partnerships, public, private sector, university, are critical. For me taking risks, moving fast, you know, it’s a kind of Liverpool thing really that. Let’s take some risks. Let’s move really quick. Let’s be opportunistic, but as we do it, let’s gather evidence.”

Prof Hemingway threw down the gauntlet to the round table, saying:

“I’m going to throw a challenge in to everybody, because nobody’s thinking small.

“So, we are globally leaders in infection control R&D. We do that in digital. We do that in the lab side. I think there is the opportunity to take that next big step and have something that is sitting around an infection R&D Super Cluster that has a nucleus, sitting here, but actually brings in a lot of the North West and the different bits we’ve got there.

“I think it needs some of the lab facilities. I think that lab facility needs robotics, and AI so we’ll do the sort of chemistry activities that you can’t do at the moment by sitting people in labs and doing them, and we’ve got the skill base from the university and the robotic system that’s there. And that links up with supercomputing and the AI, and we market the hell out of it as a consortium.

“We’ve actually got a base to be able to do that with iiCON, with the consulting partners, in terms of the NHS, academia, and industry already working together. We’ve demonstrated to central government we can make that work. So they gave me £18.6m – we’ve already turned it into £205m in two years and brought 500 companies to work with us.

“Build the hell out of it, and let’s get everybody around this table saying, how do we take that next big step?

“Because when I set this up two years ago, I said what it was meant to do was turn the dial, so rather than to spend £2bn on R&D for infection across the this bit of the North West we were going to go for £3bn. Well, I can do £3bn on what we’re doing at the moment, but I think if we all get together and move this, we can actually move that from being £2bn a year to actually £5bn a year much quicker.

“So this challenge, I’ll throw it out, but it needs all of the different components to really step up and have the confidence to take that next big step.”

Liverpool City Region Mayor, Steve Rotheram, responded, citing the opportunities to improve the ailing health sector which has been under such intense pressure since the pandemic. He said:

“If we did it, as well on the health dimensions of this, just imagine what digital connectivity can do for health?

“The worst place you can go at the moment, and unfortunately I’ve been there, is A&E. Don’t get sick at the moment. It’s the wrong time for you to get sick and health, now, you can probably diagnose things better from home.

“So if you had the connectivity to homes, put your hands in a glove, or on a mat, or whatever, it would take all of those vital signs for you. And you don’t even need a GP because, all of those things, you can probably have an algorithm on AI that will tell you what it is that you need to do or what’s wrong with you.

“All that could happen as part of a real strategic health innovation in the city region. All of the different bits could come together.

“Government would be interested in that because it takes pressure off the NHS at the moment, using data in a different way so that we can predict some of these things and prevent it, and that will take the pressure off the NHS.”

John Lucy, director of Liverpool Freeport, outlined how the newly-set up organisation could help support the kind of clusters that could give the region a world-leading role in new technologies. He said:

“There’s a real opportunity in life sciences, and the way the Freeport model works is regeneration to create a cluster. So if you’re saying there’s a need for a cluster in the life sciences area, collectively, it’s just a case of putting the business case there. The Government really want to see these things come to the fore and we’ve got opportunities for funding.”

Andrew Ruffler, Professional Liverpool CEO, drew the panel’s attention to another area that Liverpool excels in, and can gain even more traction in, which is electronic gaming.

He met recently with a team from Sony who moved in to the city centre. It boasts a 450-strong headcount, which recently swelled by 350 following an acquisition. Mr Ruffler said:

“You total those up and you start to realise that gaming, and Sony in particular, is probably one of the biggest private sector employers in the city.

“Yet nobody talks about it. It’s a massive, massive industry, it’s a phenomenal sector, but we don’t tell the story well enough. It’s an example of how these opportunities, these strengths, exist, and how we tell Tim (Newns), for instance, to get these messages out there – I think we need to get much much better.”

The North is full of investment opportunities and world-class economic strengths. Accelerating progress and unleashing its full potential can rebalance the national economy and change the lives of the people who live and work here.

Invest North is being led by, in partnership with Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Squire Patton Boggs, Phoenix Group, and Lloyds Bank. It is also being supported by the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, Curveblock and Influential.

Through a series of round tables, research and interviews it will identify the investment opportunities and policy requirements that can make a significant difference to the economy of the North.

Visit to find out more.

Research at the Royal will explore new infection tackling tech

An innovative study has been launched at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital to explore how a new antimicrobial coating can protect the NHS by reducing healthcare associated infections (HAIs).  

HAIs are a risk to patients, visitors and staff, and cover a range of different infections including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile). HAIs result in significant costs to the NHS and increased illness and time in hospital for patients.  

 An estimated 3.5% of those that acquire a HAI die from the infection, according to research published by the British Medical Journal. Infection prevention and control is vital to limiting spread of HAIs and the related problem of antimicrobial resistance. 

 The bacteria, fungi and viruses (microbes) that cause these infections can be transmitted by contact with a contaminated surface. Manual cleaning of surfaces is performed regularly but between cleaning contamination can occur. In addition, the use of environmentally damaging chemicals and how these can be safely reduced is an important consideration for the NHS. 

To lower the risk of HAI by touching contaminated surfaces, a new type of antimicrobial film coating has been developed by the expert vacuum coating solutions specialist Gencoa. The Merseyside-based manufacturer’s coating can be used on a wide variety of healthcare surfaces with the aim of quickly eliminating environmental contamination between cleaning.  

To date, Gencoa’s film technology has been used on surfaces in busy public areas, for example on train station touchscreens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gencoa is now looking to explore applications in healthcare settings.  

 The initial stage of assessing the product’s viability for hospitals was undertaken in partnership with the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON). Established in 2020, iiCON is a world leading centre for infection innovation and R&D based at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, which works in partnership with Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LUHFT). 

As part of iiCON’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) SME support programme, a fully funded study was conducted to verify the potential effectiveness of Gencoa’s antimicrobial coating. The research particularly focused on pathogens for which new antibiotic treatments are required.  

 The results proved that this solution could in principle be applied to a hospital setting and the data was a key part of Gencoa receiving additional funding for a larger study alongside LUHFT, which runs the Royal Liverpool University Hospital.  

Innovate UK awarded a £584,066 funding grant as part of its BioMedical Catalyst Award to a partnership between Gencoa, LSTM and LUHFT to optimise their coating for use in healthcare environments and look for real world data on efficacy and safety in a clinical environment.   

Antimicrobial coatings will be installed within clinical environments including touchscreens and door handles in the new state of the art Royal Liverpool University Hospital, which was opened in October 2022.   

To create the coatings, the Midlands based Diamond Coatings Ltd. will transfer the new technology to production and develop a high-volume roll-to-roll capability for coating adhesive pads in order to protect screens and other surfaces. 

The coatings will be in place for up to 12 months and will be assessed for how they perform under standard NHS Infection Prevention and Control guidance for cleaning. Systematic environmental testing will be performed of coated and uncoated surfaces to look for differences in contamination. Parallel to this, testing will be conducted in a mock ward environment at LSTM to investigate whether changes to clinical cleaning pathways could be safely considered. at

Dermot Monaghan, Managing Director of Gencoa Ltd, said: 

“The project utilises a ‘solid state’ coating applied to a surface by vacuum deposition in order to reduce contagion by rapidly killing microbes present. The coating is highly robust and provides a continuous self-sanitising effect for touch screens and other parts in highly trafficked areas.  

“The academic and grant support combined with the material technology capabilities of industrial partners has been vital to advancing Gencoa’s innovation into the healthcare sector.” 

Dr Adam Roberts of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine led the research at iiCON, he said:

The ERDF funded study that we conducted within iiCON meant that Gencoa could access our advanced research facilities and the skills of a world-leading team that specialises in infectious diseases in order to prove the antibacterial performance of its new film coating. This was significant, as it helped achieve further funding from Innovate UK and a partnership with LUFHT which will move the research onto the next stage and take the results from our laboratoriesinto the real world. 

“This project has shown that creating links between healthcare, academia and SMEs is a great way to rapidly progress new technologies and it’s a route that we hope to adopt with other businesses to simultaneously help them into the healthcare market while getting much-needed innovations into the NHS as quickly as possible.” 

Dr Stacy Todd, Consultant in Infectious Diseases at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is the NHS research lead for the project. She said:

“This is a great example of NHS, University and Industry partners working together to develop products which have the real potential for patient benefit. The twin problems of healthcare associated infections and antimicrobial resistance means that we need to think broadly about what interventions can benefit patients, visitors and staff in making healthcare safer. By doing this we can keep offering patients cutting edge treatments, including those for cancer therapy and surgery.” 

Professor Terry Jones, Director for Research and Innovation at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: 

“Finding new ways to combat HAIs and to reduce the threat from antibacterial resistant microbes is of vital importance. This multi-disciplinary, multi-partner study is also testament to the thriving collaborative approach to research and innovation in Liverpool City Region, bringing together clinical, industrial and academic experts. Undertaking this study in such a new healthcare facility provides a rare opportunity to analyse innovative technology in a real-world, state-of-the-art environment.” 

Jason Eite, Managing Director of Diamond Coatings Ltd., said:

“We look forward to applying our vacuum coating technology and roll coating capability to help minimise the risks posed by HAIs. Combining our manufacturing expertise with the medical and microbiological expertise of the rest of the team has proven to be a highly productive and effective method of creating an innovative new solution for the healthcare sector.”

Liverpool to benefit from £23.4M boost for National Biofilms Innovation Centre

The National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC), which the University of Liverpool co-directs, is to benefit from a Phase 2 funding package totalling £23.4 million.

The NBIC is a UK Innovation and Knowledge Centre which exists to create a fusion of world-class interdisciplinary research and industry partnerships to deliver breakthrough science and technologies to control and exploit biofilms.

The University of Liverpool is one of NBIC’s four lead research institutions and its involvement is through the Open Innovation Hub for Antimicrobial Surfaces, a multi-disciplinary initiative to develop new processes and technologies to tackle biofilm and antimicrobial resistance, which is led by Professor Rasmita Raval.

The new funding package will build upon NBIC’s collective strength as the UK’s national centre and support the continued expansion of world-class research and innovation.

The NBIC was launched in 2017 and is led by four Co-Directors including Professor Raval alongside Professors Cait MacPhee, Miguel Cámara and Jeremy Webb respectively. Since its inception, the centre has expanded partnerships with 59 research institutions and more than 150 companies across the UK.

Biofilms are central to our most important global challenges, from antimicrobial resistance and food safety to water security. They also provide a significant contribution to both the UK and global economy. In May 2022, a study carried out by NBIC estimated that the value of the markets in which biofilms are involved is worth £45 billion in the UK and $4 trillion globally.

To date, NBIC has collaborated with over 150 industrial, research and public partners in the UK and overseas to develop joint-industry programmes that are tackling major economic and societal issues affecting the world today.

The latest funding will support NBIC’s vision to deliver a global innovation hub by building on its collective strengths to prevent, detect, manage and engineer biofilms. It will enable NBIC to drive the adoption of innovative solutions across industry sectors to address major global challenges including climate change, water safety and improved healthcare. It will also drive step-changes in standards and regulation for novel biofilm solutions that support international trade.

Phase 2 will also see NBIC deliver a diverse training programme to equip the biofilm innovation ecosystem with the skills they need both now and, in the future, while also nurturing the talent of tomorrow.

NBIC University of Liverpool Co-Director, Professor Rasmita Raval said:

“Liverpool is proud to be a core partner of NBIC. The next phase of NBIC is critical for the UK to consolidate its global leadership in biofilms science, standards, innovation and skills training. NBIC also plays an important role in Liverpool’s growth agenda, as our city region sets its ambitious targets for the coming decade. I am strongly committed to our ethos of academia and industry collaborating together, bringing our collective knowledge, strengths and talents to address some of society’s most pressing problems.”

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:

“Our area is already home to some of the world’s leading clusters of innovation, with unparalleled strengths in AI, infection control and materials chemistry right on our doorstep. I want to harness these strengths – and potential – and turn them into profitable businesses, creating better, greener jobs and bringing greater prosperity to local people.

“Locally, we’re putting our money where our mouth is, with plans to invest 5% of GVA into R&D and plans that could create around 44,000 highly-skilled jobs for local people and add £42bn to the local economy.

“The University of Liverpool has a massive role to play in helping us to achieve that ambition – and this latest investment in the National Biofilm Innovation Centre is testament to the incredible impact it has made – and I cannot wait to see what opportunities arise on this next chapter in its journey.”

This funding comes at the same time as NBIC announces its new CEO, Professor Jo Slater-Jefferies. Professor Slater-Jefferies joined NBIC in April 2018 and brings a wealth of experience and leadership in knowledge exchange, academic and industry collaboration and strategic research programmes to the role.

The University of Liverpool’s Open Innovation Hub for Antimicrobial Surfaces combines interdisciplinary surface and materials science expertise with advanced imaging techniques across the physical and life sciences. The pivotal role of surfaces in biofilm formation is studied with precision – often at the nanoscale and single-cell level- enabling structure-property relationships that govern microbial adhesion, biofilm development and antimicrobial action to be established. The Hub creates seamless interactions between researchers, industry and clinicians, enabling science and innovation to progress together.

The new £23.4 million investment consists of a £7.5 million award from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Innovate UK alongside a further £9.5m from its four lead universities (Liverpool, Edinburgh, Nottingham and Southampton) in addition to £6.4m industrial support.

Find out more about NBIC’s achievements to date and future plans for the Phase 2 roll out in their 2022 Annual Report.

KQ Liverpool launches schools programme to inspire next generation of innovators

KQ Liverpool has today launched its Sixth Form into Science schools programme.

The programme will see cohorts of local sixth form students from across Liverpool City Region spend the day in the Knowledge Quarter Liverpool (KQ Liverpool) Innovation District, giving them the opportunity to visit a number of the unique facilities and organisations located across the innovation district, which were previously inaccessible.

Delivered in partnership with some of the best institutions and cutting-edge businesses based in KQ Liverpool, the purpose of the programme is to showcase the diverse mix of careers on offer within the innovation sector and to create tangible aspirations for local talent. 

Students will visit the Digital Innovation Facility, Manufacturing Technology Centre, Centre for Snakebite Research and Interventions and the Royal College of Physicians at The Spine, giving an insight into daily working life in an innovation district. 

Rachael Patterson, Policy and Marketing Manager at KQ Liverpool, said:

“We’re excited to be launching our school’s programme which we have worked closely with key KQ Liverpool stakeholders to create. We want our innovation district to be a playground for young people’s imagination and we will be opening previously unopened doors to make this happen.

“Being a Better Neighbour to our surrounding communities is a key part of KQ Liverpool’s 2025 Vision and this programme is just one initiative we are delivering to help ensure that opportunities within the innovation economy are opened up to all.”

KQ Liverpool is a rapidly changing part of Liverpool City Centre, propelled in particular by the exponential growth of its knowledge economy. As such, a number of world-leading businesses have been attracted to the innovation district, creating new and unique opportunities for young talent. 

Colin Sinclair, CEO of KQ Liverpool, said:

“In just a few years Paddington Village in KQ Liverpool has risen from the ground, with organisations such as the prestigious Royal College of Physicians and innovative digital bank Cashplus opening up their Northern Headquarters on the site. 

“As the innovation district continues to develop and evolve, it is crucial that local communities benefit from its growth and importantly local students are fully aware of the opportunities available to them right on their doorstep.”

Students will have the opportunity to hear from professionals in a live working environment with the chance to ask questions and gain a better understanding as to the many different routes that can lead to a career in the health and life sciences, tech, digital and creative sectors.

Ian Bullock, CEO at the Royal College of Physicians, said:

“The Spine was designed to be one of the world’s healthiest workspaces for mental and physical wellbeing in the UK and we hope that by welcoming students into our Liverpool home we will be able to inspire the future workforce and get local young people excited about the opportunities available to them.

“Showcasing roles across education, communications, project management, digital marketing, events and finance – to name but a few – we will be demonstrating the diversity of careers on offer at the Royal College of Physicians as part of the programme.”

The programme is initially being piloted with six local schools and colleges, with the pilot being used to gain feedback on the programme from students, teachers, career leads and partner organisations to help scale it up in the future.

If you’re interested in learning more about KQ Liverpool and the Sixth Form into Science schools programme get in touch by emailing:

Sciontec promises cycling revolution as Hemisphere gets the green light at Paddington Village

Liverpool City Council has today approved the planning application for HEMISPHERE, a new 120,000 sq ft, eight-storey, standout innovative workspace development located on Paddington Village.

LCR wins Government status for vaccine discovery, development and manufacturing

The Department for International Trade and Growth Platform to showcase the Liverpool City Region’s life sciences expertise at this year’s World Vaccine Congress in Barcelona.

Merseyside SMEs lead on life science innovation thanks to iiCON support

A dedicated SME support programme managed by iiCON: infection innovation consortium, has successfully propelled some of Merseyside’s most innovative new life science businesses – stimulating R&D and economic growth in the region.

US-Based Pierian Biosciences Opens Its First UK Laboratory In Liverpool

Harrogate International Advisory has successfully welcomed its US client Pierian Biosciences into Liverpool with the opening of Pierian’s first laboratory in the United Kingdom, at Liverpool Science Park.

Sciontec reveals plans for £2m investment in Sensor City

Sciontec Developments Limited (Sciontec) has submitted a planning application for a new, eight-storey standout office development to be located on Paddington Village, in the Knowledge Quarter Liverpool (KQ Liverpool) Innovation District.

Elida Beauty to set up Product Development Hub

Elida Beauty, a Global Unilever Business Unit for Personal Care products, has signed a 10-year commitment for a space within Liverpool Science Park (LSP), which is owned and operated by Sciontec Developments Limited (Sciontec).