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Metro Mayor announces £1.1m boost for innovative local businesses

Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has announced £1.1m of funding from the Future Innovation Fund Pilot to 22 local SMEs who have continued to innovate during the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing to the city region’s economic recovery.

This is the second round of funding from the £3m Future Innovation Fund Pilot, which distributed £1 million to 14 local SMEs back in August.

Among those awarded funding are companies developing digital applications supporting the music and fashion sectors, offering coronavirus testing and vaccination products, and a range of socially trading organisations in areas including urban farming.

Launched by the Mayor in mid-June, the £3m Future Innovation Fund is providing grants to support SMEs that are continuing to innovate in the changed business environment created by COVID-19.

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

“The past few months have thrown up challenges for local businesses of a variety and scale that I don’t think any of us could ever have predicted. Local businesses have shown a remarkable ability to change and adapt to these ever-changing circumstances.

“We have moved quickly alongside them, launching the Future Innovation Fund to give them the support that they need to continue to innovate through and, ultimately, survive this difficult period and get our region flourishing again in the future.”

Councillor Janette Williamson, Portfolio Holder for Inclusive Economy & Third Sector, said:

“The ingenuity and adaptability of our local businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of inspirational. The range and quality of applicants to this fund is testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of our city region. I’m proud that we have been able to support these 22 projects and I’m sure they will make a huge contribution to our economic recovery.”

Quotes from successful applicants:

Sarah O’Brien, Co-founder of Make Thread, said:

“We are thrilled to have the support from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and its latest contribution to local businesses in their Future Innovation Fund. At Make Thread our aim is to combat unsustainability and inaccessibility within fashion by making social and environmental process changes in how it is produced and consumed. The FIF will accelerate our mission to digitally scale and optimise the business in creating a sustainable and fairer solution to fashion’s outdated ecosystem, as well as driving exciting opportunities to the LCR”.

Make Thread are developing a sustainable social marketplace for fashion designers / creatives addressing issues with “fast fashion” – incorporating process efficiencies to allow scale-up/response to increased demand

Jennet Beesley, Director, Daresbury Proteins, said:

“This is truly fantastic news. The importance of this support from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority cannot be overstated.

“It has arrived at the time when we needed it most to realise our potential for underpinning the domestic diagnostic industry in the fight with the Covid-19.

“The funding will enable our much-needed scale-up to manufacture the most valuable key reagent for Covid-19 antibody diagnostic kits.

“We are very proud to be part of this ambitious, dynamic and pioneering community.”

Daresbury Proteins are working on rapid diagnostic antigen testing for coronaviral infections.

Craig Pennington, Founder, Future Yard CIC, said:

“We are thrilled to receive the news of this support. COVID-19 has presented an acute challenge to the music and creative industries. Support from the Future Innovation Fund will be invaluable as we look to develop new digital resources for artists from all social backgrounds, allowing them to flourish in their careers, post-COVID.”

Future Yard CIC are developing an innovative digital application to help artists starting up in the music industry access mentoring and support.

Paul Myers, Managing Director, Farm Urban, said:

“We are absolutely delighted that our application to the Future Innovation Fund has been successful. This funding will be transformational in our recovery plans post COVID – it will allow us to increase resilience, improve efficiency and adapt to new markets presented to us through the pandemic. This will in turn allow us to expand our vertical farm in The Baltic Triangle, increasing the amount of hyper local, fresh and nutritious food we are able to provide to local residents.”

Farm Urban was born out of the Life Sciences Department at the University of Liverpool and is improving efficiency in vertical farming to help grow sustainable fresh produce in the heart of urban areas.

Successful applicants in round two of the Future Innovation Fund are:

  • Draw & Code – A cutting edge virtual immersive tech solution which will help the events industry adapt to the ‘new normal’
  • Future Yard CIC – Innovative digital application to help artists starting up in the music industry access mentoring and support
  • Farm Urban – Improving efficiency in vertical farming to help grow sustainable fresh produce in the heart of urban areas
  • TMM Commercial (t/a The Mind Map) – The MindMap is a mental health platform that uses biographical profiling to allow patients to connect with more appropriate counsellors and lead to better health outcomes
  • GoJoe App Ltd – “GoJoe” fitness app incentivises fun, social and team-based exercise using celebrity and professional athlete influencers to drive engagement
  • Sepsis Limited – Rapid point-of-care testing device to diagnose Sepsis, introducing sensor technology to optimise process and reduce cost of manufacturing
  • Signalise Co-op Limited – Digital platform to streamline booking of BSL sign language interpreters driving, in particular, more efficiency in NHS treatment, diagnosis and fewer wasted appointments
  • Make Thread Ltd – Sustainable social marketplace for fashion designers / creatives addressing issues with “fast fashion” – incorporating process efficiencies to allow scale-up/response to increased demand
  • Damibu Ltd – An innovative system which aggregate multiple data streams to provide a digestible resource for the NHS, care services and local authority organisations.
  • CNC ROBOTICS LTD – Repeatable and scalable product/service extension for 4IR robotic manufacturing processes, which will allow SME manufacturers to adopt at low cost
  • Daresbury Proteins Ltd – Rapid diagnostic antigen testing for coronaviral infections
  • Mobile GIS Services Ltd (t/a MGISS) – Ground-breaking software-as-a- service, which uses satellite data to secure greater efficiency in the management of infrastructure assets
  • Acorn 2 Oak Innovation Solutions Limited (t/a A|2|O Technology Group) – Development of low-cost, lightweight material components for automotive sector
  • DPRV LTD (t/a DefProc Engineering) – Scale-up of “Push to Talk” product designed to reduce loneliness for the elderly or isolated
  • Nidor Diagnostics Limited – Helping healthcare professionals diagnose and monitor disease without the need for patients to undergo invasive endoscopy
  • Revivocell Limited – Rapid screening/testing for COVID-19
  • ProNetix Ltd (t/a DriverNet) – Cloud application to improve efficiency of patient and community transport services funded by local authorities and the NHS
  • Wellbeing Enterprises CIC – Development of a training academy for social prescribing in LCR
  • IoT Horizon Limited – Sensor technology which can be used to monitor the safety and integrity of building insulation materials.
  • Spin Up Science Ltd – A commercially sustainable spin-out accelerator designed to increase the level of research commercialisation within the LCR
  • NeedleSmart – Digital vaccination system and safe disposal methodology for hypodermic needles/mass vaccination programmes
  • Machfab Engineering Limited – This project will transform a traditional machining work space into a state-of-the-art facility for future manufacturing, opening up new markets both locally and nationwide with opportunities to export innovative goods to many sectors such as medical and nuclear.

The proportion of successful applications from underrepresented groups within the innovation sector has increased from the first round. 38% of successful applications are from female-led organisations, 14% from ethnic minority led organisations and 18% from organisations with leaders who identified as having a disability or impairment. This compares favourable as against the diversity monitoring information collected from the 140 applicants in this heavily oversubscribed round, which comprised 29% female-led, 14% ethnic minority led and 7% identifying as having a disability or impairment. Whilst this represents progress in terms of securing equality of opportunity and improved outcomes for under-represented groups, the CA continues to explore whether any further improvements can be made for the third round under the pilot. This is in the spirit of continuous improvement based on the data collected under the pilot approach.

Unsuccessful applicants are encouraged to work with Growth Platform or their Local Growth Hub to find alternative support.