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Protecting coasts and developing green energy technologies among Liverpool City Region innovation projects to secure nearly £5.5m

  • 23 projects centred around the Liverpool City Region awarded funding from Innovate UK’s ground-breaking Launchpad programme
  • Additional grant funding to be made available in second round of the pilot scheme
  • Support for projects to protect coastal communities from flooding, increase energy efficiency and develop hydrogen, solar and wind power technologies
  • Other high-tech schemes include developing remote-controlled factories and making plastic recycling more efficient

Nearly £5.5m has been awarded to 23 Liverpool City Region innovation projects – with an emphasis on digital technology and tackling the climate emergency.

The funding is part of Innovate UK’s ground-breaking Launchpad programme which aims to drive innovation beyond south-east England and is being piloted nationally in the region.

Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, who has pledged to invest 5% of local GVA in R&D by 2030, said:

“The Liverpool City Region has the political will, research strengths and drive to succeed as a leader of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It was that ambition and our underlying status as a hotbed of innovation that led to Innovate UK making us one of only two Launchpad pilots in the country.

“This is about attracting more innovation funding into our region and the wider North, helping us to create secure, well-paid jobs and training opportunities for local people who, for far too long, have been held back from fulfilling their potential not by a lack of talent, but a lack of opportunity. As Mayor, I’m working to put that right.

“It is fantastic to see our Launchpad status starting to bear fruit with this first £5.5m of funding coming into the region. But this is just the tip of the iceberg; we have got a £3bn pipeline of new projects still to unlock and, under my plans, will invest 5% of our GVA in innovation over the next few years – nearly double the national target. We are positioning ourselves at the forefront of UK science and innovation – and are ready to take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way.”

Nine collaborative R&D projects, involving businesses working with research and technology organisations, were awarded a total of just over £4m in the first round. A second round of competitive grant applications will open this month for advanced manufacturing projects.

Successful projects, receiving between £128,000 and £694,000, include schemes to manufacture:

  • An eco-friendly block to help protect coastal communities against climate change-related flooding. The project, run by Liverpool SME Virtus Concrete Solutions Limited in conjunction with Liverpool John Moores University, to develop a new eco-friendly concrete ‘Geoblock’ which would completely replace cement for use in breakwaters and non-structural applications through recycling industrial and domestic wastes.
  • Advanced fuel cell technology for large power applications, such as HGVs and marine – delivered by Mersey Fair Air Limited in partnership with KC3 Concrete Equipment Limited, both Liverpool startups

A further 14 projects shared a total of £1.44m, receiving up to £100,000 each. These projects are to develop innovations for manufacturing, including:

  • A pioneering wind turbine with an eco-friendly energy storage system developed by Enturi, to make significant contributions towards net zero goals and future energy security. It comes as UK companies face an urgent need to decarbonise
  • Floating solar arrays. FloGen Limited will research and test construction of very low carbon floating solar power units with structures built from natural and recycled materials
  • Energy-efficient ceramic filtration membranes used to produce ultra-clean water, delivered by Evove Limited

Innovate UK’s Launchpad programme opened in September and focussed on developing innovations that transform the region’s advanced manufacturing cluster, with an emphasis on digital technologies and net zero outcomes.

The decision to choose the Liverpool City Region reflected its highly developed place-based innovation approach. It also followed publication of the area’s first Innovation Prospectus that highlighted world-leading strengths in infection prevention and control, advanced manufacturing, AI solutions, plus emerging capabilities in net zero and maritime technologies.

The Innovation Prospectus showcased more than £12bn of investment opportunities including a £3bn R&D project pipeline, at least £4bn in the Mersey Tidal Power programme, and £5bn in HyNet. It also highlighted the area’s distinctive innovation assets and clusters, fertile innovation ecosystem and exceptional partnerships between industry research organisations and the public sector.

Last year, the city region also became the first place to refresh its Science and Innovation Audit and the first to announce a landmark partnership and action plan agreement with Innovate UK.

The Combined Authority, Growth Platform – the region’s growth company, STFC Daresbury Laboratory, and other key local stakeholders were directly involved in developing the Launchpad programme, which offered competitive grants of between £15,000 and up to £1m for businesses of all sizes.

Grant funding of up to £1m is available for projects that provide exceptional impact to the cluster of SMEs centred on the Liverpool City Region, including the STFC Daresbury Laboratory at Sci-Tec Daresbury, and extends beyond the city region into areas including Warrington, Cheshire West and Chester, Deeside, and South Lancashire.

The programme is designed to build on innovation clusters that have clear growth potential and successful applicants will receive wrap-around support from local and national organisations. Innovate UK also encouraged applicants to show how they had considered equality, diversity and inclusion within their proposal.

The programme follows through on Innovate UK’s commitment in its Plan for Action to help build local strengths and help businesses benefit from them, in support of the government’s levelling up agenda.

Launchpad’s key objective is to ensure more places in the UK host world-leading and globally connected innovation clusters, creating more jobs, growth, and productivity in those areas.

The Launchpad pilots have proved so successful that Innovate UK will be announcing a further 8 Launchpads across the UK this Spring, with the intention to launch their first funding calls in the summer.

Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK, said:

“Innovate UK is building strong regional partnerships across the UK to support local innovation and commercialisation. I am pleased to work with Mayor Steve Rotheram and support his vision for his region. The Innovate UK launchpad programme and our other partnership activities are strongly contributing to boost business-led innovation across the region.”

Welcoming the grant awards, Dr Jon Hague, Head of Clean Future Science & Technology for Unilever Homecare, who chairs the LCR Innovation Board, said:

“2022 was an extraordinary year for the Liverpool City Region innovation agenda with the launch of our first Innovation Prospectus, publication of our second Science & Innovation Audit, being the first place to announce a pioneering Partnership and Action Plan with Innovate UK, plus our selection as a national pilot for UKRI’s Launchpad programme.

“Today’s announcement of the amazing successful Round 1 Launchpad projects is a fantastic way to start 2023, reflecting the diversity of our innovation ecosystem and marking the shape of things to come in what promises to be an even more momentous year for LCR Innovation than the last.”

Welcoming the second round, Janice Mears, Head of Business Growth at Growth Platform said:

“It is fantastic to not only see 23 successful projects benefit from the first round of the Launchpad pilot, but it is also encouraging to see the collaborations and types of projects that have been successful.

“For our city region to innovate, develop and strengthen the advanced manufacturing cluster our businesses need additional support and funding that will continue this upward trajectory – Launchpad is one such initiative that will help businesses maximise their potential and create additional opportunities and I would encourage any businesses within the advanced manufacturing sector to apply for round two funding.”