Steve Rotheram has revealed a vision for the Liverpool City Region to become an innovation powerhouse.

The Metro Mayor announced £10.5 million investment to create a new company – LCR Ventures – to help innovators turn their ideas into high-growth businesses and good-quality jobs.

The city region is aiming to invest more than double the national target on R&D by 2030, linked to £3 billion of innovation projects.

LCR Ventures will initially provide so-called ‘incubator’ services and funding to very early-stage start-up companies in the Liverpool City Region’s health and life sciences sector.

In the short term LCR Ventures, thought to be the only company of its kind in the country, is expected to create 60-100 jobs, with more as the startup companies grow.

LCR Ventures will take an equity stake in innovative new businesses in return for financial support and expertise in an effort to make them fully sustainable and high growth. If the business is successful, the investment will be recycled and reinvested.

“In the Liverpool City Region, we are very lucky to have a cluster of world-class research institutions and a real passion for innovation,” said Rotheram. 

“I want to take advantage of those strengths and turn them into profitable businesses, creating jobs and prosperity for local people, as well as delivering advances in healthcare that should save and improve people’s lives.

“Our investment builds on the assets of our region’s fantastic health and life sciences sector and will provide the support needed to help turn good ideas into great businesses.

“I’m determined to make our region the country’s innovation engine and, to make that happen, we’ll be investing 5% of our GVA in research and development over the next few years – nearly double the government’s national targets. I truly believe that with the right support we could help take our health and life sciences sector stratospheric.

“By investing now to establish ourselves as a hotbed of innovation and new technology, we’ll be able to attract many more high-skilled, well-paid jobs and attract many, many more jobs, businesses and opportunities from around the world.”

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The first £7.5m of funding has enabled project sponsor The Innovation Agency to establish LCR Ventures as a standalone not-for-profit company.

It will also create a £5m Challenge Fund for the health and life sciences sector, where the city region has existing world-class assets, including the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the largest cluster of specialist NHS hospitals and supporting assets outside London.

The ambition is to expand to other sectors in future as further funding becomes available.  The Combined Authority has ringfenced almost £3m to achieve this goal.

LCR Ventures founding chief executive Lorna Green said the ideas and passion for innovation to improve life for patients and staff are already there. But funds are needed “to help these ideas at an early stage, to develop a prototype, test it out and protect the intellectual property”.

“Investors want to back a product, not an idea, and with this new fund we can plug the gap in funding early-stage development to make it investment-ready,” said Green. 

“We will grow a pipeline of high value startups and by attracting further investment we will be able to take ideas from concept to commercialisation, increasing the region’s skill base and ultimately benefiting patients and the local population.”

The Liverpool City Region has four internationally recognised ‘Global Digital Exemplar’ NHS providers and more specialist health trusts and supporting assets than any UK city outside London, with nationally significant centres of excellence in children’s health, cardiology, oncology, neurology and women’s health.

It also has distinctive, world-leading innovation assets in the STFC Hartree Centre for artificial intelligence and high-performance computing, the University of Liverpool’s Materials Innovation Factory for materials chemistry, and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine for infectious diseases.

More than 100 innovations are currently being developed by NHS clinicians across the city region, each with the potential to deliver economic impact, commercial returns and improve patient outcomes.

LCR Ventures will provide the business support while allowing the clinicians to continue working in the NHS.

LCR Ventures will complement and integrate with existing business and innovation support in the city region and has been co-developed by Growth Platform, the Combined Authority and the Innovation Agency, which is the Academic Health Science Network for North West Coast.