City region bids to open up trade and investment links with South Korea

Busan Port (courtesy South Korea Tourism Organisation)

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is bidding to open trade relations with South Korea.

Representatives of the authority will next week travel to the country’s second largest city, Busan, which is also home to the world’s sixth largest port.

The UK-Republic of Korea Innovation Twins Programme is a UK government-backed programme to build relationships at a city region level.

Combined authority deputy chief executive, Richard McGuckin, is representing the region on the trade mission, which is aimed at helping UK and South Korean cities with complementary strengths develop long term research and innovation links, creating a pipeline of opportunities for bilateral trade and foreign direct investment (FDI).

As well as helping both countries realise the potential of their highly innovative SME sectors, it will also connect larger companies and universities.

As part of next week’s visit, Richard and the Mersey Tidal Power project director will visit Sihwa Tidal Power Plant near Seoul, the world’s largest tidal power plant, as well as meeting the chief executive officer of K-Water, which owns and operates the facility.

They will also meet senior officials from Busan and Seoul, as well as other prominent figures from academia and business.

The visit comes just two weeks after the launch of the Liverpool City Region Innovation Prospectus, which details how the city region’s world leading expertise in infection control, materials chemistry and artificial intelligence, allied with emerging net zero projects, would be a launchpad for future discoveries and investment.

It also highlights the Liverpool City Region’s aim to invest five per cent of its economy on Research and Development (R&D) by 2030 – nearly double the Government’s UK target.

The Mersey Tidal Power Project could generate enough clean, predictable energy to power up to one million homes and create thousands of jobs in its construction and operation.

Over the past two years the authority has undertaken early technical work to understand the potential scope of the scheme, which could be up and running within a decade, playing a huge role in the region’s push to net zero carbon by 2040 – at least a decade ahead of national targets.

The Liverpool City Region is one of just four UK locations to be twinned with a South Korean counterpart under the scheme. This initiative is being delivered by Connected Places Catapult and funded by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Innovate UK and supported by the British Embassy in Seoul.

Richard McGuckin said: “This initial visit has the potential to increase our international trade with South Korea and to build on our complementary strengths in innovation in ways that will boost our economy for years to come.

“As well as creating links with Busan, a major port city with many similarities to our city region, we will also visit the world’s largest tidal power scheme at Sihwa Lake, as well as consolidating links with K Water, the plant’s owner operator, which we made at COP26 in Glasgow. The visit demonstrates the scale of our ambitions from the Liverpool City Region.”

Dr Amy Hochadel, director of global business growth at Connected Places Catapult, said: “Connected Places Catapult is passionate about boosting innovation across different countries to drive economic and social progress.

“The Innovation Twins Programme is designed to harness the power of two complementary cities to collaborate on research and innovation, technology adoption, investment and trade to solve mutual challenges. We look forward to bringing together representatives from the Liverpool City Region and Busan and to move the agenda forward in these important areas.”

The UK-South Korea Innovation programme has been designed to support long term city-to-city relationships with a focus on:

  • Smart Cities, mobility, and enabling technologies
  • Economic development and diversification
  • Start-ups and SME support
  • Research & Innovation (R&I) and collaboration

In addition to the Liverpool City Region-Busan links, as part of the programme, Glasgow has been twinned with Daegu, Birmingham/West Midlands has been twinned with Ulsan, and Belfast has been twinned with Sejong.

The South Korea visit comes just weeks after Mayor Steve Rotheram joined Greater Manchester counterpart Andy Burnham on a mission to Ireland – aimed at boosting trade and co-operation.

Links have also been forged with Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya, as part of the combined authority’s push to increase Liverpool City Region’s presence on the world stage.

A study conducted in an earlier phase of the UK-South Korea Innovation programme found that Liverpool City Region and Busan had the potential to be effective innovation twins for a number of key reasons:

  • They are similarly sized coastal city regions, located relatively far from their capital and both in the top four largest cities in their countries.
  • They share similar economic productivity and have a shared maritime and industrial history, with similar current ambitions to international key sectors of their economies.
  • They are both city regions with moderately developed infrastructure and the potential to make significant progress in the near future.
  • They share complementary strengths in innovation and collaboration, particularly around sensors and the Internet of Things, clean energy and healthcare.
  • They both also share a commitment to place-based innovation through a willingness to run testbeds and other pilots.

On April 26, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority launched its Innovation Prospectus at an event in Westminster. The document is a multibillion-pound plan to supercharge the city region’s innovation powerhouse credentials.