A delegation of senior civil servants visited the Liverpool City Region (LCR) to learn more about the world-leading research and industry collaboration powering the region’s innovation engine as part of a showcase jointly hosted by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), University of Liverpool (UoL), and Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU).
Representatives from the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) toured pioneering centres of co-innovation led by the three institutions during the visit on Thursday, June 16th. The showcase event highlighted the research expertise and unique industry partnerships that are driving innovation and economic growth within the region.
The delegation included Professor David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England and senior representatives from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The visit focused on key areas of capability including Tackling Infection, Advanced Materials, and Knowledge Exchange. It also showcased the world-class co-located facilities and expertise available to businesses within the thriving innovation campus, Knowledge Quarter Liverpool.
The visit closely follows the publication of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF). This independent UK assessment highlighted the world-leading research being undertaken by the three universities across multiple disciplines.
At Liverpool John Moores University, the delegation learned more about the Low-Carbon Eco-Innovatory (LCEI) a multi-million-pound partnership between LJMU, UoL, and Lancaster University. Since 2015 LCEI has offered over 300 businesses within the city region an opportunity to access world-leading resource, facilities and expertise to research new or improved low carbon goods and services.
The showcase explored how this open access for SMEs and start-ups to the universities and their expertise, resources, skills and facilities is driving new jobs, GVA growth and Low Carbon Technology innovation. The delegation met four Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) from the region who showcased how the collaboration had benefited their businesses, after being supported by either the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory or LCR4.0.
“Our research has a direct impact on the way our region’s businesses develop and become more successful,” said Professor Keith George.
Prof George, LJMU's Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise continues, “we can help increase productivity and innovation by helping them develop smarter products, processes and supply chains. We can do this because we have access to the very latest technologies and knowledge available, and a commitment to work with companies so they can use it for their benefit.”
Infection Control was a key focus during the tour. With the UK’s largest concentration of translational public sector research, development and innovation into infectious diseases, the region delivers £2 billion of infectious disease research and development a year - the biggest concentration in the UK and one of the biggest in Europe. In 2017/18, LSTM attracted £980,000 of research income per full time academic, more than ten times that of Oxford University.
Ministers learned more about the city region’s world-leading infection R&D facilities including iiCON: Infection Innovation Consortium, a £174 million LSTM-led consortium of academics, businesses and NHS partners established in 2020. Designed to accelerate the discovery and development of new products to treat, diagnose and prevent infectious diseases, iiCON is developing a global centre for infection innovation in the city region. The consortium has already created hundreds of jobs and aims to boost investment in infection R&D in the region by £1 billion by 2030.
The delegation also learned more about the ambitions for The Pandemic Institute, which brings together Liverpool’s leading academic institutions including LJMU, the NHS, City Council and City Regional Authority in an end-to-end program to respond to current and future pandemic threats, building capacity for research, innovation, and impact.
Ministers visited the University of Liverpool’s Materials Innovation Factory, an £81milllion state of the art facility created in partnership with Unilever to accelerate the research and development of advanced materials.
The University of Liverpool is one of the world’s leading academic institutions for materials science and its Chemistry research was ranked 3rd in the UK for outstanding (4*) research impact in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.
The MIF brings together this research expertise with the latest in materials science automation robotics to accelerate the discovery and development of net zero materials and processes including new forms of energy use and storage and recyclable and sustainable products.
The visit follows the recent launch of the Liverpool City Region’s Innovation Prospectus in Parliament. This sets out an ambition for the city region’s world-leading expertise in infection control, materials chemistry and artificial intelligence to act as a launchpad for future discoveries and investment – adding an estimated £41.7 billion to the city region’s economy and creating 44,000 jobs.
David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England, said: “No single university can address the increasing number of challenges that face our society and economy. This is why I am delighted to be part of an event that illustrates the desires of our partner institutions to harness their ambitions and capabilities and work together for the greater good.”
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “Our region is a home to a thriving community of entrepreneurs and innovators with the experience and knowledge to put our area at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – and ministers have seen that on full display today.
“We’ve already proven we’re more than capable of achieving that ambition but, to unleash our full potential, we need our aspirations to be matched with government investment. I want to attract more funding into the North, helping us to create secure, well-paid jobs and training opportunities for local people.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg; we’ve got a £3bn pipeline of new projects still to unlock and will invest 5% of our GVA in innovation over the next few years – nearly double the national targets. I hope that ministers will leave today with a sense of excitement for what the future has in store for the Liverpool City Region – and UK plc too.”
Professor David Lalloo, Director of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said: “Partnership has always been central to LSTM, ensuring that world leading research can be translated into tangible results – with LSTM ranking 2nd in the UK for impact in REF 2021.
“Collaborations with academic and industry partners globally are evident throughout LSTM’s almost 125-year history, and we hope that those collaborations, particularly within the Liverpool City Region, will help us to address some of the biggest issues in global health in the 125 years to come. This expertise continues to drive investment in R&D in the region, creating jobs and finding health solutions and innovations that benefit people in communities across the world.”
Professor Janet Hemingway, Director of iiCON: Infection Innovation Consortium, said: “The Liverpool City Region has a unique heritage as a world-leader in infection control, where innovative approaches to global health challenges have been pioneered for over 100 years.
“With iiCON, we’re proud to be building on this heritage, working to facilitate a dynamic collaborative interface between industry and academia. Our platform connects world-leading research with commercial capability to drive investment and innovation, creating the jobs of the future and positioning the Liverpool City Region as the global location of choice for infection control R&D.
“Since launching in 2020, our programme has already supported 12 innovative products to market, with over 16 in our innovation pipeline. This effort has helped to save hundreds of lives and supported pioneering infection innovation from companies of all sizes, both locally and globally.”
Professor Anthony Hollander, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Impact, at The University of Liverpool, said: “The Materials Innovation Facility is an international centre for advanced materials excellence and expertise that plays a key role in the region’s research and innovation capabilities.
“It represents a best practice example of how researchers from academia and industry can work together to address society’s grand challenges, including achieving Net Zero, and actively contributes to economic growth across the Liverpool City Region and beyond.”