Liverpool City Region chosen to pilot fund to drive innovation

  • Ground-breaking programme to develop and strengthen innovation clusters outside south-east England

  • Innovate UK to make an initial £6m available to applicants to drive impact in the Liverpool City Region and Tees Valley

  • Pilot fund will rise to up to £15m

  • Focus on city region’s advanced manufacturing innovation cluster – with emphasis on net zero and digitalisation

  • Selection for UK pilot reflects the Liverpool City Region’s highly developed place-based innovation approach

man in front of a historical building

The Liverpool City Region is one of only two places to pilot a new programme of up to £15m to drive innovation beyond south-east England.

Innovate UK’s Launchpad pilot programme will initially offer up to £6m in competitive grants of between £15,000 and up to £1m for businesses of all sizes and will focus on developing innovations that transform the city region’s advanced manufacturing cluster.

The fund will rise to £15m during the pilot phase of the programme.

Details of the initial funding competition are now live, and a webinar will be held at 12 noon on Monday, September 26, to explain the programme. You can register here

The new Launchpad funding 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, part of UK Research and Innovation, is also encouraging applicants to show how they have considered equality, diversity and inclusion within their proposal.

The initiative follows publication of the Liverpool City Region’s first Innovation Prospectus earlier this year that highlights world-leading strengths in infection prevention and control, advanced manufacturing, AI solutions, plus emerging capabilities in net zero and maritime technologies. The city region is also the UK’s first place to refresh its Science and Innovation Audit.

The Prospectus showcases more than £12bn of investment opportunities in the city region including a £3bn R&D projects pipeline, at least £4bn in the Mersey Tidal Power programme, and £5bn in HyNet. It also highlights the Liverpool City Region’s distinctive innovation assets and clusters, fertile innovation ecosystem and exceptional partnerships between industry research organisations and the public sector.

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram’s ambition is for 5% of the local economy to be invested in R&D by 2030 – nearly double the national target.

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

“The Liverpool City Region has a proven track record in delivering world-leading innovation, so it’s no surprise that we’ve been recognised by Innovate UK as one of the country’s hotbeds for investment. With some of the brightest minds in advanced manufacturing, infection control, and AI, right on our doorstep – it’s safe to say they’ve come to the right place.

“For too long the North has been treated like a poor relation to the Golden Triangle. This could be an important first step in finally redressing that and delivering real levelling up, as well as reaping the wider benefits it brings to the local economy and job market.

“Locally, we’re putting our money where our mouth is too, with plans to invest 5% of GVA into R&D – nearly double the national targets – but it’s essential that the government matches our ambition with further funding if they’re serious about helping us to unleash our full potential.”

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Growth Platform – the Liverpool City Region Growth Company, STFC Daresbury Laboratory, and other key local stakeholders have been directly involved in developing the Launchpad programme.

It 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.

Their commitment starts with up to £6m investment across two pilot Launchpads in the Liverpool City Region and Tees Valley. That figure will rise to up to £15m over the programme’s pilot period.

Grants starting at £15,000 are available for business-led innovation projects, alongside wrap-around support for growth. Grant funding of up to £1m is available for projects that provide exceptional impact to the cluster of SMEs.

The Liverpool City Region Launchpad will focus on the advanced manufacturing sector, with digital technologies and net zero outcomes, building on the local economic strengths, R&D assets and strategic priorities.

The innovation cluster is centred on the Liverpool City Region, includes the STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory at the Sci-Tec Daresbury Campus, and extends beyond the city region into areas including Warrington, Cheshire West and Chester, Deeside, and South Lancashire.

The Tees Valley Launchpad aims to support making Tees Valley a regional hub for Net Zero innovation for Yorkshire, Humber and the North East, focusing on hydrogen, carbon capture, utilisation and storage, and offshore wind energy.

Launchpads’ 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.

Innovate UK CEO Indro Mukerjee said:

“Innovate UK has been building strong regional partnerships across the UK to support local innovation and commercialisation.

“Today’s launch of the Liverpool City Region and Tees Valley Launchpads is an important step and another example of active collaboration with regional partners to deliver growth and productivity through innovation.”

Monday’s online event will allow businesses and organisations to find out more from Innovate UK, Growth Platform – the Liverpool City Region Growth Company and KTN.


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

“It’s excellent to have been selected as one of only two areas in the UK to pilot this new UKRI and Innovate UK initiative. This reflects both confidence in our ability to deliver on the national agenda and associated recognition of having one of the most advanced place-based approaches to innovation in the country.

“Things are progressing very rapidly in the Liverpool City Region following the launch of our Innovation Prospectus, with our refreshed Science and Innovation Audit about to be published, funding approval for the next stage of LYVA Labs – the City Region’s new innovation commercialisation vehicle –  the iiCON programme led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine delivering in spades towards its £1bn R&D investment target, global industry-led Glass Futures securing additional investment, the STFC Hartree National centre for Digital Innovation gearing up, and now this national Launchpad award.

“This relentless exponential progress is what also gives me impetus to continue to drive even more success via the LCR Innovation Board and for our city region to deliver on its 5% R&D investment ambition.”

Janice Mears, Head of Business Growth at Growth Platform – Liverpool City Region Growth Company, said:

“I am thrilled that Innovate UK are launching this pilot programme here in Liverpool City Region. Manufacturing is vitally important to our economy supporting nearly 50,000 jobs and is a sector that has seen growth in jobs and business numbers outstrip the England average over the last decade. However, to continue to innovate, develop and strengthen the advanced manufacturing cluster our businesses need additional support and funding that will continue this upward trajectory – the Launchpad pilot is one such initiative that will help businesses maximise their potential and create additional opportunities to cement our reputation as a global leader in advanced manufacturing.”

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