Posted on April 19, 2018 by staff

Liverpool can be global digital powerhouse


Liverpool’s metro mayor Steve Rotheram says the city region can become the UK’s “digital gateway for the fourth industrial revolution”.

Rotheram discussed Liverpool’s future and the strength of its offering as a technology hub with leading business figures based in the city at our breakfast event.

He spoke of plans to connect the UK’s most sophisticated supercomputer with the United States.

“We’re going to connect the Hartree supercomputer in Daresbury Sci-Tech with the fibre optic cable between us and North America,” he told an audience of more than 80 people at The Contact Company offices in Birkenhead.

“This type of tech is an opportunity for us: we can become the digital gateway for the fourth industrial revolution.”

He said better connectivity through the region – which includes the local government districts of Liverpool, Halton, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral – is key.

“We’re going to connect the six districts up so we have ultra-fast speed and Big Data analytics capability,” he said.

“All of that is a game-changer for us – we’ll be reporting on that in the next couple of months. We are putting it forward into the combined authority.”

He also spoke of the huge potential for using the River Mersey to generate renewable energy.

Peel Ports Group, who sponsored the event, is the company behind the deepwater container tower Liverpool2 which it describes as ‘a new gateway for the UK’.

Mark Whitworth (pictured above) has been its CEO for eight years and said that this is an exciting time for the business and surrounding region thanks to tech.

“Technology is a major differentiator in our industry today and is revolutionising very traditional industries,” he said. “For example, autonomous vessels are something we are currently exploring and investing in.

“We’re a major employer, we have a number of developments and we’re a catalyst for growth not only for Liverpool but for the wider North West and north of England.”

Whilst new technical infrastructure is being planned for the city, tech business funding looks to be increasing too.

Lisa Greenhalgh (below) is the CEO of MSIF, which provides loan and equity investments, predominantly in the Liverpool city region.

“Seventy-five per cent of our equity investments last year happened to be in tech businesses,” she said.

“In terms of money-out-the-door, we doubled what we’d invested [in total] the previous year.”

She added: “We’ll support any sector or business which needs it: any sector which grows the Liverpool city region economy is good for us and good for the region.”

Colin Sinclair (below), chief executive of Knowledge Quarter Liverpool, says that the knowledge economy is central to growth.

KQ Liverpool was brought together in May 2016 by five funding partners – Liverpool City Council, the University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University, The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University NHS Trust – to create, develop and promote one of Europe’s leading Innovation Districts.

“Liverpool is synonymous with music and fashion and sport, but the real driver in recent years has been the knowledge economy,” said Sinclair.

“A lot of people don’t know that Liverpool is a world-leader in fighting infection and diseases, sensor technology and materials chemistry.

“Those things are pushing the knowledge economy ahead.”

While lauding ongoing developments, the panellists agreed that more needs to be done to retain local talent.

Dr. Joanne Phoenix (below), business development director at Sensor City, says the sensor technology innovation centre situated at the edge of the Knowledge Quarter has a part to play in fostering Liverpool’s technology talent from university.

“We’ve got over £1 million of state-of-the-art equipment in our building [but] we need more resource to deliver on projects,” she said.

“We’ve got more space, we’ve got the right environment and a great brand, so we need to encourage companies to come here and give them a pool of talent to work with.”

vTime is one business which has set up in Liverpool and has seen talent coming into the area. Its virtual reality app, which has had one million downloads, allows users to communicate via avatars and recently received £5.4 million in investment.

“We’ve been through a growth spurt recently,” explained the company’s managing director Clemens Wangerin (above, left, with event host Chris Maguire).

“We hired ten new staff, and only a handful of them were already in Liverpool. Quite a few of them relocated from places like Nottingham and Edinburgh.

“They are mostly in their twenties; for some of them, it was the first time they had been to Liverpool. And without fail, they all said that they didn’t realise Liverpool was so cool.

“They say it’s the most Instagrammable place in the UK right now.”