Maritime boss says £30m Mersey incubator is on the way

Chris Shirling-Rooke says centre for small firms could be open in Wirral’s Dockland’s by 2018. Tony McDonough reports.

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A £30m incubation centre for maritime and energy entrepreneurs on the banks of the River Mersey could be up and running in just over two years.

Mersey Maritime is working with partners Peel Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and Peel Group to create the hi-tech facility in a disused Grade II-listed Victorian tower in Wirral’s docklands.

In an interview with YBNews, Mersey Maritime chief executive, Chris Shirling-Rooke, said the centre could be open by winter 2018.

Phase 1 up and running

It will be phase 2 of a project that has already seen the umbrella organisation open its Maritime Knowledge Hub in Birkenhead, in a joint venture with LJMU and Wirral Council on behalf of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

Based in Vanguard way close to Cammell Laird, the facility is now ready for a programme of events, seminars, training and networking.

And now Mr Shirling-Rooke said he and his team were now ready to turn their attention to the incubation centre.

Phase 2 in the pipeline

The Hydraulic Tower, which used to drive lock gates and bridges in Birkenhead, is modelled on Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio and is located in the heart of the Mersey Waters Enterprise Zone.

He said:

“We are looking, along with our partners Peel, to maybe start moving in by winter 2018. That will add another interesting dimension to the hub.

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“It will mean we will have different campuses. Where we are now in Vanguard Way – think advanced manufacturing, think behavioural change college and think engineering.

“Phase 2, think incubator space, think simulation space. Spaces for micro business to have a home where they can grow and develop.”

Supporting a huge sector

Mersey Maritime represents a business sector that is annually worth £3.4bn and generates 13% of the Liverpool city region’s GDP. It has more than 200 members.

On the successful launch of phase 1, Mr Shirling-Rooke added:

“The opening of the Maritime Knowledge Hub has gone seamlessly – on time and on budget.

“The Hub is a really interesting concept because it has created a vehicle to support business and to support people.

“We know there is a demand from SMEs for a ‘touchstone’ – somewhere to go to get information on finance, on skills.

“And it is also somewhere for people looking to work within the sector to go to.

“We could point them towards the likes of Liverpool John Moores University or one of our key partners such as Wirral Met or Hugh Baird College or the Maritime and Engineering College.”

Liverpool2 creates a buzz

Mr Shirling-Rooke also talked about the excitement in the local maritime sector around Peel Ports’ new £300m deep-water port terminal.


He explained:

“It is not just the shipping lines that will be coming in and out – it is about the whole supply chain for the city region.

“The impact is going to be fantastic. The opportunity to develop skills and the opportunity for SMEs to grow and create new relationships with businesses that are trading with Liverpool.”

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