Panel set outs ambitious roadmap for change in Liverpool

The Panel tasked with supporting Liverpool’s long-term future beyond government intervention measures has published an ambitious roadmap for change.

The Liverpool Strategic Futures Advisory Panel, chaired by Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram, has released its initial findings today at the University of Liverpool’s Vice-Chancellor’s Conference which will see a range of high profile speakers discussing how best to create a more successful Liverpool.

Following six months of engagement with more than 300 stakeholders, the Panel has developed the outline of a reform agenda to accelerate the city’s progress towards a stronger and more sustainable future.

Three broad priorities have been identified for Liverpool over the next 10 years; rebooting Liverpool’s regeneration, 21st century public service reform, and turbocharging the innovation economy.

The report recommends initial proposals to transform these areas:

  • Establishing a regeneration partnership to kickstart stalled projects and rejuvenate regeneration in the city.
  • Piloting an integrated, data-led approach to service delivery focused on multiple complex needs, with the potential to establish a first of its kind Office for Public Service Innovation in the city region.
  • Ensuring the region capitalises on its strengths in life sciences, using the Investment Zone status to accelerate growth in the Knowledge Quarter and spread its benefits more widely.

The Panel believes these priorities should form the basis of Liverpool’s economic strategy in the coming decade, and the outcomes used to measure its success will be set out in the Panel’s final report.

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

“This report is a culmination of months of engagement and evidence gathering with the people who know our area best. Those discussions gave us a much clearer picture of the direction local people believe the city is going in, and the areas where we need to steer the ship to keep things heading in the right direction.

“This report doesn’t claim to have all the answers, it’s just part of the solution to the puzzle to revitalising Liverpool’s economy. At this stage, our priority is planting the seeds for leadership and supporting sustainable growth for the long-term, some of which we have already seen with new leadership at the council.

“Liverpool has all the ingredients of a fantastic, truly global city. Through the Panel’s work, we want to help the city seize the major opportunities that lie ahead and and ensuring that all our residents can share in the benefits this will bring.”

Taking stock of where the city sits today, the report states that “Liverpool is rightly regarded as one of Britain’s most dynamic and distinctive cities… yet economically, [it] punches below its weight.”

The interim report provides an in-depth analysis of Liverpool’s economy today, listing strengths like Liverpool’s tourism appeal, growing student population, and emerging strengths in areas like life sciences, advanced manufacturing, digital and culture. However, weaknesses remain – productivity lags behind the national average, earnings are lower, and there is an over-reliance on low productivity sectors. It estimates £4.5 billion per year could be added to Liverpool’s economy by raising productivity levels to the UK average.

Leader of Liverpool City Council, Councillor Liam Robinson, said: 

“I am pleased to support this report, which outlines the huge opportunities for Liverpool. Working in partnership with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, other stakeholders and businesses, we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to improve our city.

“In recent decades, there have been great strides in making Liverpool a fantastic place to live, work and visit. Now is the time to accelerate our work, moving it to the next level, making sure we deliver for all of our residents.”

The report has been approved by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP.

Mayor Rotheram is joined on the Panel by two major local government figures, Baroness Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds City Council from 2015 to 2021 and Sir Howard Bernstein, who was chief executive of Manchester City Council from 1999 to 2017.

They have worked with Liverpool City Council and its Cabinet, officers at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, external experts, and stakeholders to deliver a long-term masterplan for the growth and success of the city.

Further detail of this reform agenda, and delivery milestones, will be the focus of the Panel’s final growth strategy report in 2024.

The ‘​​Liverpool Strategic Futures Advisory Panel: Interim report’ can be found here.

Collaboration to improve in vivo antibiotics testing

New antibiotics are crucial in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

Assessing the effectiveness of new antibiotics requires standardised high-quality infection models, readily available to stakeholders developing new antibacterial treatments. The Innovative Medicines Initiative project COMBINE is developing a standardised in vivo pneumonia model to test small molecule antibiotics. This model is now being evaluated through a unique collaboration with some of the main actors in the field: CARB-X & CAIRD, iiCON, and Pharmacology Discovery Services.

Through this collaboration, key stakeholders will be able to share expertise and data, strengthening the validation studies of the COMBINE pneumonia model through testing by multiple organisations. This is part of an ongoing effort to develop a standardised protocol for the in vivo pneumonia model. Data from the model will also support the establishment of a reference strain bank of clinically relevant, well-characterized Gram-negative strains. COMBINE is also providing a framework to bridge the gap between preclinical data and clinical outcomes using mathematical modeling approaches.

The pneumonia model will support harmonisation, and the collaboration between COMBINE, CARB-X, CAIRD, iiCON and Pharmacology Discovery Services will improve quality through input and advice on the general strategy and standardisation parameters. The collaboration has been consolidated through agreements that enable the sharing of data and expertise, and exchange of ideas on study design for validation and benchmarking studies. The work on the pneumonia model is led by a team at Statens Serum Institut in Denmark, with COMBINE in vivo experiments will be performed at three different project partner sites: Statens Serum Institut, Paul-Ehrlich-Institut and GSK in order to test reproducibility between different laboratories.

“I am pleased that the protocol that COMBINE has developed for the standard pneumonia model works well with the isolates and antibiotics tested so far. Further studies are now in progress to fully characterise the model, and we look forward to making the protocol available to the AMR community,“ said Lena Friberg, Professor of Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics at Uppsala University, who is leading the COMBINE efforts on translation.

CARB-X will play an important role in this work by supporting the validation of the pneumonia model with approved antibiotics used in clinical settings, with CAIRD leading the work to provide a benchmark for new experimental antibiotics through back-translation of clinical data from human plasma and lungs.

iiCON, a consortium led by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) with core partners LifeArc, Unilever, Evotec, Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust, University of Liverpool, and Infex Therapeutics, is another strategic partner.

iiCON partners within the Antimicrobial Pharmacodynamics and Therapeutics (APT) group at the University of Liverpool and Infex Therapeutics are working to support the development of experimental models of invasive bacterial and fungal diseases and mathematical modelling to ensure optimal dose selection. Another important part of the work will be facilitated by Pharmacology Discovery Services, supplying data on the efficacy of standard antibiotics in mouse lung infection models.

Professor Janet Hemingway, founding director of iiCON, said:

“In the global fight to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR) , knowledge sharing and collaboration is essential to drive forward new solutions. We’re delighted to be supporting the evaluation of COMBINE’s pneumonia model and to be working together with these key global organisations to pool our expertise and jointly advance our capability against AMR.”

COMBINE has a coordinating role in the AMR Accelerator, a cluster of public-private partnership projects funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). The initiative brings together academia, pharma industry, patient organisations, non-profits and small and medium sized companies to develop a robust pipeline of antibiotics.

“We are excited to bring standardised tools to those working to fill the pipeline with new antibiotics, and proud to be part of a community of stakeholders working together to combat antimicrobial resistance”,

said Anders Karlén, Professor of Computer-Aided Drug Design & project coordinator.

What next for KQ Liverpool after Investment Zones?

– What will Liverpool look like post Investment Zone funding?

– Are Investment Zones a one off or is this an opportunity to build on what could be achieved in the next five years? 



In the Spring Budget, a refocused Investment Zone programme was announced that will see the creation of 12 Investment Zones across the UK. This includes a health and life sciences Investment Zone in Liverpool City Region, with a package of £80m funding over the next five years. 

With a general election upcoming and Investment Zone delivery due to commence in April next year, Knowledge Quarter Liverpool (KQ Liverpool) held a roundtable with some of its key innovation district stakeholders, to consider what’s next for KQ Liverpool and Liverpool City Region in the years to come. 

So what does the future look like for KQ Liverpool, the City and the City Region? The below write-up shares an insight into some of the main discussion points and priorities covered during the event, along with some recommendations, shared visions and overarching sentiments for the future.

Asset-based clusters

Following an initial welcome by KQ Liverpool CEO, Colin Sinclair, who Chaired the debate, then opened the discussion to the room, starting with a question around asset-based cluster development and why it is important to the future development of Liverpool City Region. 

In response, Professor Matt Reed, Strategic Director of the University of Liverpool’s Materials Innovation Factory, started by saying: “Asset based clusters can have a powerful effect. There is evidence to prove that organically grouped people and high density clustering of knowledge assets drives the economy. I would also suggest that we all need to look granularly at our growth trajectory and engage more with the outside world.”

Professor Janet Hemmingway, Founding Director of iiCON, agreed by saying: “We have got the set-up to be a global power, thanks to our existing industry, academia and NHS supercluster. This is starting to work and the consortium’s effort is delivering real life impact and leveraging new products.” She advised that: “We are still too academic in our approach however, and we need to strengthen our industrial base to leverage further activities in exporting and high value jobs for LCR.”

Civic Data

Following on from this, the conversation turned to why civic data and mental health is so important to inclusive innovation, and how local projects in this field can create global collaborations and encourage new occupiers to cluster in KQ Liverpool.

Professor Iain Buchan, Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for Innovation at University of Liverpool, said: “There is a social impact culture in Liverpool where people swarm if they believe in what they are doing. The Covid-19 pandemic saw people put organisational barriers aside and share data for the greater good. Liverpool gets the job done, and like tonight, gets people in the room who can make things happen.”

Professor Raphaela Kane, Pro Vice Chancellor HEA (Faculty of Health) at Liverpool John Moores University, added: “The healthcare workforce needs to ensure they have the right skills for the future and we need to think beyond traditional silos for healthcare delivery. A ‘grow our own’ philosophy will make a significant local impact for employment and health outcomes, as well as attracting the right people in.”

Global reach and scale

The next topic discussed was in relation to ensuring that the projects being brought forward under the Investment Zone also have a global reach and impact. 

Providing this international viewpoint was Professor David Lalloo, Director at LSTM, who explained: “LSTM’s focus is predominantly outside of the UK, but its work is relevant to the UK. We are seeing a huge change in countries becoming more wealthy thanks to an explosion of innovation. We need a long term strategy, as funding for global health is changing, and learn from global best practice.”

Dr Carol Costello, Chair of KQ Liverpool and Director of People and Services at the University of Liverpool, added: “We have a network of alumni around the world which provides a huge database that we don’t use as much as we should. We need to think more practically and maximise where there are interrelations that we can join up and benefit from.”

With regards to inward investment, Professor Mark Power, Chair of Sciontec Developments Limited, and Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Liverpool John Moores University, explained: “We don’t have sufficient large scale employers in LCR, but we do have a huge talent pipeline that has business ideas, but these will only form part of the supply chain. We need to identify where there is space for the bigger organisations to come in, as well as growing existing KQ Liverpool based companies. The challenge is selling the LCR lifestyle and incubation space, as we have the ambition to do it, so collectively we can offer a menu of opportunities.”

Commercial investment

Adding to the discussions regarding work space provision and commercial investment into LCR, Andrew Lewis, incoming Chair of KQ Liverpool and Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council, said: “I have been struck by the number of assets in Liverpool City Region, and the concentration of them in KQ Liverpool. We have a big obligation to master plan the estate, as space is precious and not surplus. The Investment Zone has taken opportunities locally and created a network of capabilities which is quite profound, and will attract further attention in the coming years.

“Hosting Eurovision demonstrated how Liverpool’s international brand is real and not just a perception. Referring to social impact, the role of The Pandemic Institute and businesses being attracted here is great, and we’re also attracting students and educating them who will then go into the world of work. It is important but there are massive shortages. 

“We have excelled on the academic side, and we now need to nurture commercial indigenous growth from academics and students creating new businesses, and also attracting inward investment. LCC is now making stronger capabilities and connections with the Combined Authorities, creating a stronger ‘to do’ list. It is great to hear the optimism in the room.”

National outlook

Giving a wider view of Liverpool City Region’s capabilities was Sean Davis, FD Investments at Bruntwood, who said: “From a national perspective, regeneration and the growth of clusters doesn’t happen overnight. Liverpool has to identify its unique set of strengths, which it is already doing, but also needs to try and get investment out of the golden triangle and develop stronger relationships.”

Sally Bloor, Head of Marketing and Communications at Sciontec, agreed and added: “We’re currently aware of a big lab space enquiry and are working on a bespoke pack for this. I think we’re three quarters of the way there in attracting large occupiers, but there is more to be done to refine the micro detail of our offer, in terms of available buildings, their specific location, plus access to R&D and talent. We have worked closely with Growth Platform and have linked up with the KQ Liverpool based Universities to make stronger messaging which is helping. Similarly with attracting Cashplus Bank, colleagues from LJMU, UoL, and the City Council helped pitch directly to them, so I think this type of leveraging should be undertaken more often.”

Communication, collaboration and skills

Further to Sally’s recommendation to refine our offer, Charlie Whitford, Director of Regional Strategy & Engagement at The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), echoed this sentiment by saying: “We need to keep the messaging simple when we’re communicating the story of superclusters. The Investment Zone is commendable, with the capabilities coming together for the greater good, which is greater than the individual parts.”

He also discussed the role of local infrastructure by saying: “People who are looking to relocate place a key focus on the cultural environment in which they’re going to work. As such, the transport in LCR needs to be better, because the city will become clogged if we continue to expand at the same pace. We’re also experiencing a ‘tale of two cities’, as the north of Liverpool needs more development, and we need a positive approach to not being too localised with politics.”

The MTC is a High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC), whose Digital Manufacturing Accelerator is located within Liverpool Science Park (LSP). Another HVMC Centre based at LSP is CPI, and their Strategic Partnerships Manager for the North West, Damian Mohammed, added: “The key challenge we are solving is leveraging public funding to unlock private investment, to ensure projects have longevity and legacy. Having both a commercial focus with social impact makes a real difference, ensuring inclusive innovation. We are working with academic, industry and government-funded stakeholders in the region to help deliver this. We do, however, need to consider how the new Investment Zone projects will find the talent needed to deliver their impact, and we are working with the region to identify the skills of the future. We need to start working with schools, colleges and universities now, to develop STEM skills for the next 5-10 years.”

Workspaces of the future

Aligned with the future vision theme, Leanne Katsande, Head of Commercial at Sciontec, shared how: “Space requirements have gone full circle, and lab occupier demand has grown significantly. Flexibility is essential and all of our developments will be futureproofed for occupiers so we can accommodate ongoing enquiries.”

Architectural practice, Fairhursts Design Group, have been behind some of the largest and most innovative lab schemes in the UK. When asked about how KQ Liverpool could differentiate and future proof new lab schemes, Laura Sherliker, Director at The Fairhursts Design Group, explained: “Labs requirements are ever changing, although building stock is finite. We need to make buildings not monuments, and civic architecture needs to be for locals and not contain any social barriers. For this, we must link up with schools and other groups in the community. Having the right strategy and vision is so important, so we need to consider how buildings will change in the next 5-10 years. I think smaller, tech enabled labs will be more in demand, although these use a lot of energy, so we need to set a sustainability agenda now and continuously strive for better standards.”

Rob Hopkins, Director at AHR (who was the lead architect when designing The Spine in Paddington Village), offered an additional view point, saying: “With regards to innovative workspaces of the future, we can no longer detach living and work spaces. We need to have the confidence to bring together both elements at Paddington Village, and we have a great opportunity to do it first and to do it best. What has been done at The Spine can be done with living spaces, as well as other workspaces.” He also added: “KQ Liverpool has the ability to bring all of the right ingredients together. Occupiers want the greatest place and environment for their workforce to thrive. We should think cleverly about existing spaces too and use what we’ve got.”

Living labs

Lorna Green, CEO of LYVA Labs explained that: “We have already seen the benefits of flexible work space and connectivity for our own company, and as a result of the investment we’re putting into creating new companies in the region, they will need somewhere to locate. The LCR Investment Zone means that we can run this additional accelerator space.”

She also set an interesting challenge for participants to consider. “After Investment Zones, I’d like to turn LCR into a living lab for healthcare. We can’t underestimate the importance of wrap-around support for startups, and we have got so many of the other building blocks already, like knowledge assets, data, and training. Through this support, businesses can then turn into innovators and scale.”

“Bring it on!” was the immediate response from Jan Ledward, Director of Strategy and Partnerships at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. “A living lab would provide a combination of mental and physical health solutions within a care environment. We should also create doctors of the future who have a wider view of conditions, although we really need these skills now, not 5 years in the future.”

Partnerships and talent retention

Professor Tom Solomon, Director of The Pandemic Institute, discussed the benefits of partnerships, by saying: “I’d like to see more conversations about commerce, not academia, although we have a strength in joining them up through The Pandemic Institute, the city council and higher education partners. International partners have also been built up over many years and a recent visit to Bangalore has led to an exciting new partnership, but there were no council or commercial delegates on the trip, which I think was a missed opportunity.”

Linking back to Professor Mark Power’s point, Tom added: “Big companies have looked at locating within LCR, but they didn’t actually land here. We should have a drive to try and build new facilities, like our proposed pandemic preparedness and response laboratories, so that we can attract and accommodate these larger enquiries.”

Addressing the group next from KQ Liverpool’s perspective, was Rachael Stevens, Head of Partnerships and External Relations, who said: “The Investment Zone presents an opportunity for projects to happen, but we need to focus on bringing a spatial focus together to promote it externally. We can also use the Investment Zone as a way to attract graduate talent, but we need skills and mid management roles for the 25-40 year old workforce, as this is where we are losing people to other cities.”

Optimism for the future

To summarise the Roundtable, Andrew Lewis, incoming Chair of KQ Liverpool, said: “I’d like to end on a note of optimism and self confidence about our future. We’re all aware of the gaps we’re facing and when we put the table of points together, we get a platform for growth. Where we are now is incredibly powerful. We’ve got a common strategy, a fantastic global brand and have a real focus on what we’re good at. We should never be complacent, but we’ll succeed with partnership working. I think we should also look at Greater Manchester as a coalition opportunity rather than a competitor, and similarly with London.”

Colin Sinclair concluded: “This is just the start. I’ve seen massive change already since we created the Knowledge Quarter Liverpool Innovation District in 2016 and I know this progress will continue, thanks to the people in this room and our wider partnerships.”

National Biofilms Innovation Centre generates significant economic impact

A new economic review has found that the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC), which the University of Liverpool co-directs, has generated a total economic impact of approximately £204m.

The NBIC is the UK’s centre of excellence for biofilms research and the University of Liverpool is one of its four lead research institutions alongside Edinburgh, Nottingham and Southampton universities.

Liverpool’s 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 independent review of the economic impact of Phase 1 of NBIC by Black Kite Ltd highlights its significant economic impact of £204million in addition to contributing to the creation and development of 101 jobs.

Furthermore, NBIC has been instrumental in nurturing talent, with seventy-six students benefiting from support, including sixty-six PhD candidates, six of whom are international students.

NBIC’s Proof of Concept projects have demonstrated environmental and social benefits, totalling £53m. Engaging with over three hundred businesses, including leading corporations, as well as numerous SMEs, NBIC‘s activities span a wide range of sectors, including health, personal care, water management, marine and food production.

Professor Raval, Co-Director of NBIC and Director of the Open Innovation Hub for Antimicrobial Surfaces at the University of Liverpool said:

“The NBIC represents a new model for IKCs, combining the interdisciplinary research power of four universities to drive UK’s global leadership in biofilms science. NBIC’s active academic-industry partnership model accelerates the translation of fundamental research into new technologies and NBIC plays an important role in Liverpool’s growth agenda, and is one of its areas of innovation excellence.”

The NBIC is an Innovation Knowledge Centre (IKC) funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Innovate UK to create a fusion of world-class interdisciplinary research and industry partnerships to deliver breakthrough science and technologies to control and exploit biofilms.

Biofilms are central to our most important global challenges, from antimicrobial resistance and food safety to water security. These communities of living micro-organisms 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.

In December 2022, BBSRC and Innovate UK invested a further £7.5m to support Phase 2 of the programme to 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.

Dr Lee Beniston FRSB, Associate Director for Industry Partnerships and Collaboration at BBSRC, said:

 “There have been so many impressive achievements at NBIC since the centre was established in 2017, which I have had the privilege of being part of. I am delighted that now, through this economic review, there is an opportunity to share and celebrate this success. I offer my congratulations to all those at NBIC, as well as the wider research and innovation communities which NBIC supports, for their role in making NBIC the globally recognised centre of excellence in biofilms research and innovation that it is today. The underpinning collaboration between BBSRC and Innovate UK has been a critical part of this success which I am delighted to see continue for another five years in support of NBIC Phase 2.”

Dr Stella Peace, Executive Director for the Healthy Living & Agriculture Domain at Innovate UK, said: 

“We are pleased to see the economic impact and job creation stemming from this successful investment. NBIC assumes a central and critical role in uniting businesses and academic experts to tackle the challenges and opportunities presented by biofilms. It illustrates our commitment to driving innovation and supporting the growth of businesses that contribute to the UK’s prosperity.”

About the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC)

The National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC) is an Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) funded by BBSRC and Innovate UK. NBIC was launched in 2017 by its four lead Universities (Edinburgh, Liverpool, Nottingham and Southampton) and is led by four Co-Directors: Professors Cait MacPhee, Rasmita Raval, Miguel Cámara and Jeremy Webb respectively, alongside CEO Dr Jo Slater-Jefferies.

With a consortium of 63 academic partner institutions across the UK, NBIC is the central hub where academia, industry, government and public policy come together to tackle the grand challenges biofilms present, impacting $4 trillion in global economic activity, from food and health to ships, clean water and energy. NBIC’s mission is to drive research and innovation capacity to catalyse partnerships with industry to achieve breakthrough innovations and impact.