Liverpool unveils £10.5m investment company to create ‘innovation powerhouse’

Steve Rotheram, right, and Dr Elliott Street, at Inovus
X The Business Desk

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Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has revealed his vision for the Liverpool City Region to be a UK innovation powerhouse – as he announced £10.5m for a unique project to develop great ideas.

The investment has created a new company, LCR Ventures, to help innovators turn their ideas into high growth businesses and good quality jobs.

The Liverpool City Region is aiming to invest more than double the national target on research and development (R&D) by 2030, linked to £3bn of innovation projects.

LCR Ventures will initially provide so called ‘incubator’ services and funding to very early stage start-up companies in the Liverpool City Region’s health and life sciences sector, which is one of the strongest in the country.

In the short term LCR Ventures, thought to be the only company of its kind in the country, is expected to create 60 to 100 jobs, with more as the start-up companies grow.

LCR Ventures will take an equity stake in innovative new businesses in return for financial support and expertise in an effort to make them fully sustainable and high growth. If the business is successful, the investment will be recycled and reinvested.

Steve Rotheram said: “In the Liverpool City Region, we are very lucky to have a cluster of world class research institutions and a real passion for innovation. I want to take advantage of those strengths and turn them into profitable businesses, creating jobs and prosperity for local people, as well as delivering advances in healthcare that should save and improve people’s lives.

“Our investment builds on the assets of our region’s fantastic health and life sciences sector and will provide the support needed to help turn good ideas into great businesses.”

He added: “I’m determined to make our region the country’s innovation engine and, to make that happen, we’ll be investing five per cent of our GVA in research and development over the next few years – nearly double the Government’s national targets. I truly believe that with the right support we could help take our health and life sciences sector stratospheric.

“By investing now to establish ourselves as a hotbed of innovation and new technology, we’ll be able to attract many more high skilled, well paid jobs and attract many, many more jobs, businesses and opportunities from around the world.”

The first £7.5m of funding has enabled project sponsor, The Innovation Agency, to establish LCR Ventures as a stand alone not-for-profit company.

It will also create a £5m Challenge Fund for the health and life sciences sector, where the city region has existing world class assets, including the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the largest cluster of specialist NHS hospitals and supporting assets outside London.

The ambition is to expand to other sectors in future as further funding becomes available. The Combined Authority has ringfenced almost £3m to achieve this goal.

LCR Ventures founding chief executive, Lorna Green, said the ideas and passion for innovation to improve life for patients and staff are already there. But funds are needed “to help these ideas at an early stage, to develop a prototype, test it out and protect the intellectual property”.

She said: “Investors want to back a product, not an idea, and with this new fund we can plug the gap in funding early stage development to make it investment-ready. We will grow a pipeline of high value start-ups and by attracting further investment we will be able to take ideas from concept to commercialisation, increasing the region’s skill base and, ultimately, benefiting patients and the local population.”

The Liverpool City Region has four internationally-recognised ‘Global Digital Exemplar’ NHS providers and more specialist health trusts and supporting assets than any UK city outside London, with nationally significant centres of excellence in children’s health, cardiology, oncology, neurology and women’s health.

One, Inovus Medical, in St Helens, was established in 2012 by surgeon Dr Elliot Street, and engineer Jordan Van Flute, who together built a prototype surgery simulator. In contrast to most existing solutions, their first product provided affordability, accessibility and portability. With the help of the Innovation Agency, the med tech company went on to win major funding to develop and market low cost keyhole surgical simulators, based on their original model, which is now used by nearly 100 hospitals in the NHS

Liverpool City Region also has distinctive, world leading innovation assets in the STFC Hartree Centre for artificial intelligence and high performance computing, the University of Liverpool’s Materials Innovation Factory for materials chemistry, and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine for infectious diseases.

Cllr Janette Williamson, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority portfolio holder for inclusive economy and third sector, said: “Our investment in LCR Ventures is proof of the scale of our ambition when it comes to putting innovation to work as a key driver for our economy.

“We want to make sure that we can build on the strengths we already have, particularly in health and life sciences, and I am sure that LCR Ventures will act as a very powerful catalyst, enabling our innovators to turn their big ideas into great businesses and high quality jobs.”

More than 100 innovations are currently being developed by NHS clinicians across the city region, each with the potential to deliver economic impact, commercial returns and improve patient outcomes.

LCR Ventures will provide the business support – while allowing the clinicians to continue working in the NHS.

LCR Ventures will complement and integrate with existing business and innovation support in the city region and has been co-developed by Growth Platform, the Combined Authority and the Innovation Agency, which is the Academic Health Science Network for North West Coast.

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