Liverpool launches £5m programme to support innovation in its SMEs

Janice Mears, Growth Platform, Anthony Walker, LJMU, Dr Jo Leek, CA, Steve Rotheram, Andrew Borland, VEC, Sara Davies, CA, Michael Banford, Edge Hill University

A £5.1m programme has been launched to support innovation within the Liverpool City Region SME sector.

The Horizons programme will be provided by a partnership between the University of Liverpool’s VEC (Virtual Engineering Centre), Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and Edge Hill University.

The programme is funded by the Liverpool City Region’s £44m UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) allocation and will support more than 100 SMEs in its pilot phase.

The partnership aims to deliver industry-leading innovations across six boroughs, providing the expertise, facilities, and funding businesses need to drive innovation.

Launched by Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotherham, Horizons is the first innovation support programme in the city region funded by the UKSPF and will prioritise supporting businesses providing sustainable practices and technologies.

SMEs accessing the support, via a streamlined paperless process, can also apply for capital grant funding to further accelerate innovation and drive long term success across communities and businesses, and support the upskilling of their people.

Since 2016, the VEC led projects that have helped organisations across the Liverpool City Region contribute more than £121m GVA to the local economy, creating in excess of 1,400 jobs across multiple businesses.

The Horizons programme, which was developed following consultation with SMEs, and in partnership with the combined authority and the city’s universities, will deliver on Mayor Rotheram’s ambitions to turn the Liverpool City Region into the UK’s next science and innovation superpower.

Steve Rotheram said: “Horizon is the first innovation support programme of its kind that directly connects our region’s SMEs to our world leading institutions. It’s my hope that this partnership will help more entrepreneurs and innovators to achieve their ambitions and, more crucially, help us to catapult our area to the forefront of UK science and innovation.”

Prof Andrew Levers, executive director of the Institute of Digital Engineering and Autonomous Systems (IDEAS), said: “The University of Liverpool has set out a clear and compelling vision for regional impact under our Liverpool 2031 strategy.

“Horizons will help deliver our vision to drive prosperity in the city region by bringing the benefit of our ground breaking research to local businesses and helping to ensure that the next generation of world changing innovation is translated from research to industry by local SMEs.

“We are determined to continue playing our part to drive a culture of ambition, inclusive collaboration and responsible innovation that bridges the academic and business communities, enabling us to break new ground and make a positive impact in the communities we serve.”