A new £10.5m investment and incubation vehicle has been launched by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram to support start-up innovators across Liverpool city region. Tony McDonough reports
A new £10.5m project to support start-up or early stage businesses seeking funding for new innovations has been launched in Liverpool city region.
Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has created a new funding vehicle called LCR Ventures. It will support entrepreneurs and innovators turn their ideas into high-growth businesses and high-value jobs.
It is part of his plan for the Liverpool city region to more than double the national target on research and development (R&D) by 2030. LCR Ventures will initially provide incubator services and funding to early-stage or start-up companies in the health and life sciences sector.
In the short term LCR Ventures is expected to create 60 to 100 jobs, with more as the start-up companies grow. It will take an equity stake in innovative new businesses in return for financial support. If the business is successful, the investment will be recycled and reinvested.
Mr Rotheram said: “In the Liverpool city region, we are very lucky to have a cluster of world-class research institutions and a real passion for innovation. I want to take advantage of those strengths and turn them into profitable businesses.
“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 R&D over the next few years.
“This is 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.”
The first £7.5m of funding has enabled project sponsor, The Innovation Agency to establish LCR Ventures as a stand-alone not-for-profit company. It will also create a £5m Challenge Fund for the health and life sciences sector.
Its 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 that funding was needed.
“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,” she explained. “We will grow a pipeline of high value start-ups.
“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.”
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.
Case study: Inovus Medical
Based in St Helens, Inovus Medical was established in 2012 by surgeon Dr Elliot Street, and engineer Jordan Van Flute, who together built a prototype surgery simulator. In contrast to most existing technology, their first product provided affordability, accessibility and portability.
With the help of the Innovation Agency, the company went on to win funding to develop and market low-cost keyhole surgical simulators, based on their original model, which is now used by nearly 100 hospitals in the NHS.
The company has also received funding from the Combined Authority’s Future Innovation Fund to enable expansion into North America. Their training equipment is now used in 72 countries and the business employs almost 30 people.
Dr Street said: “I know from my experience as a clinician with an innovative idea just how important early stage support is in turning that idea into a commercially viable reality. The Innovation Agency has opened doors to funding, supported our funding bids and helped spread the word on the innovative work we are doing at Inovus.”