Knowledge is Your Future
The greatest thing about inward investment is its potential ‘snowball’ effect. One smart decision from one big investor can lead to an avalanche of other smart moves, resulting in thousands of new jobs and millions of pounds worth of development.
Earlier this year, The Royal College of Physicians announced major new plans by selecting Liverpool as the home of their first ever Northern base. Hot on its heels, the city itself released ambitious plans for a massive £1bn development scheme –Paddington Village – that could totally transform the site behind Royal Liverpool Hospital.
“There are very few cities where you could create developments like this…”
Laboratories, businesses, educational institutions, houses, restaurants and even a new railway station all form part of the plans. We’re excited and we want to know more so we talked to Liverpool Vision’s Investment Manager, Matt Biagetti and Chief Executive of the Knowledge Quarter, Colin Sinclair, to get the inside track on why Liverpool’s knowledge economy is the key to our city’s future prosperity…
When we think of the size of the Knowledge Quarter, or KQ as it’s been dubbed, one thing we often forget is the sheer scale of it. It’s 450 acres, reminds Matt Biagetti from Invest Liverpool. Incorporating the University of Liverpool, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool John Moores University, the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital, the ambition is to create a “world-class destination for science, innovation, education, technology and the performing arts”.
The timing couldn’t be more apt. The growth of technology-driven innovation; advanced manufacturing; biomedicine; robotics; transformations in health; personalised medicine; cloud computing and automated industry means we should believe people when they say we are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution and Liverpool is leading the way. The work behind Lime Street, up Brownlow Hill and across to Islington is designed to be a true powerhouse, fermenting and investing in the skills that are vital to this growth sector.
It’s about, says Colin Sinclair, empowering different specialisms. “There are various themes cutting through, like digital technology at Sensor City and biotech for example. They are multiple sectors, but with a shared interest”.
The role of the Knowledge Quarter will be to pull out those common threads, from sensor technology to materials innovation, sports science or disease discovery.Established in May 2016, the Knowledge Quarter has a purpose much like that of the cultural industry in the run-up to Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture; bring interested and co-invested parties together, as collaboration will help fuel the endeavour.
“The interconnectedness, of the research facility at the university, together with the School of Mechanical engineering, or materials science, the relevance of the Materials Innovation Factory to the car industry and to fast moving consumer goods, the brief is to tie it all together”.
Colin Sinclair comes at this from a different perspective. His entrepreneurial background started in the music industry, managing bands and owning clubs, before becoming part of the huge inward investment strategy in Manchester, over a decade ago – with roles as Director of Marketing for MIDAS and Manchester Enterprises and Chief Executive of Manchester’s Investment and Development Agency (MIDAS).
“People talk a lot about partnerships and collaboration. They’ve become buzzwords but they’re absolutely the vital bit. It’s isn’t just public and private sector but universities and health, it’s about bringing all these people together with a different mentality.”
Indeed, when he first took the job, Colin didn’t just talk to people in the partner organisations he’d be working with. Instead, he headed to Liverpool’s creative industry, talking to agency bosses and people who understand how the world works online.
“I wanted to know what they thought of the Knowledge Quarter”. For him, it’s about understanding this bit of the city not in isolation, but as part of the city’s innovation ecosystem. Because, as he recognises, there are big challenges ahead. The Knowledge Quarter is one of the Mayor’s development zones, but the work is being done against a backdrop of noisy conversation about the cuts the city coffers are facing. As much as that challenge needs to be met, the city needs to continue to work.
“The only way Liverpool will build from where it is now in the future is to differentiate itself from other European and UK cities. We need to tell the world what we’re good at. Liverpool is leading the world when it comes to researching the world’s rarest diseases, in terms of national oceanographic expertise, of shipping lines.”. We need to, he believes, shout about that influence.
This will have a major impact on the city’s economy, both he and Matt Biagetti believe. “The Knowledge Quarter brings high-value jobs, research and investment. It’s about quantifying what makes a greater contribution to the city and supporting that”. Culture, science, sports science, science, the economy of the port, all these things are interconnected and can all benefit from the work being done in the Knowledge Quarter”.
As Colin adds, if Liverpool has a coordinated message about what it’s good at, and where its success lies, it will be far better placed to tell central Government why it should back this investment
“We need to create that influence. I was a small cog in the wider machine of Manchester’s Investment strategy, and yes that was helped by having George Osborne as Chancellor and his constituency being in nearby Knutsford but Liverpool has unique strengths. It’s a naturally creative city with a strong cultural heart and it needs to use that to its advantage. We need to encourage SMEs, start-ups, using sensor technology and personalised health, robotics and the organisations doing great research into these things to build great business”.
So part of the Knowledge Quarter is about having very much an open door to those who can combine the inquisitiveness and the entrepreneurial zeal that’s needed to drive this new industrial revolution, building on the work already done at the Science Park, at Baltic Creative, places like DoEs Liverpool and the eHealth Cluster. Paddington Village and the old Irish Centre at Wellington Rooms are creating these spaces for innovation. Because if Liverpool has something other northern cities don’t have, Colin says, it’s space.
“There are very few cities where you could create a development adjacent to a hospital campus and the main academic campus, at a cluster of hospital and universities and build right next to them. It makes it really attractive”
And that is what will provide the first step to attracting the inward investment the city needs to develop.
For more on Liverpool’s Investment opportunities visit investliverpool.com