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September 2023

Strengths, challenges
and opportunities

Liverpool is renowned for its rich cultural history. From actors and comedians to musicians and writers, the city has been home to some of the UK’s most famous faces, not to mention its most successful exports. Indeed, exports were integral to Liverpool’s industrial past, too. Its position on the Mersey Estuary made it a centre for shipping, trade and industry – it is estimated that in the 18th and 19th centuries a staggering 40% of the world’s trade passed through Liverpool’s Docks. However, during the 1980s and 1990s, Liverpool was hit by a period of decline and population drop, stemming from the loss of industrial and maritime jobs in the region.

Now, Liverpool is on the path to reinventing itself as the North West’s next high-growth tech hub. While its tech ecosystem is nascent compared to the UK’s other top tech hubs, there are positive signs. In 2022, there were a record 85 equity investment deals for Liverpool-based startups with a collective value of £93m, according to data provider Beauhurst. This bucked a broader downturn for startup funding across the UK as a whole amid a challenging macroeconomic climate. Across the Liverpool City Region there are 89,300 active registered firms and it is home to global brands such as PlayStation and The Very Group.

Entrepreneurs point to Liverpool’s unique personality, high energy and quality of life. But they also say a startup mindset is yet to fully permeate across the city. But what are the factors underpinning its success, and what are the barriers to growth?

Steve Harris

Head of technology, business & commercial banking, Lloyds Bank

“Liverpool City Region’s real sense of community and collaboration around technology sets it apart from others across the UK, with the Knowledge Quarter and other tech hubs featured in this report being great examples of this. The city region also benefits from strong academic leadership driving a culture of creativity and innovation, as well as a healthy mix of commercial organisations, support networks and science hubs.”

Strengths

Q2. What, if anything, do you consider to be the biggest strength(s) of Liverpool as a place to start and grow a technology business in? (Tick up to 3)

Access to talent
Digital infrastructure and connectivity
Transport and infrastructure
Diversity and inclusivity within the workforce
Access to funding
Support from local government
Support networks - accelerators, incubators, business programmes, skills bootcamps
Collaboration between businesses and networks across Liverpool
Other, please specify
N/A - I do not consider anything to be the biggest strength(s) of this
Healthy talent flow
Robust infrastructure

Professor Anthony Hollander

Pro-vice-chancellor for research & impact and professor of stem cell biology, University of Liverpool

“Liverpool City Region is at the vanguard of technology driven industrial solutions, combining unique expertise, cutting-edge facilities and equipment and offers the scale required to help transform UK productivity. We are at the global forefront of translational R&D with distinctive world-leading capabilities in infection, materials chemistry, high performance computing and AI solutions.

“We are home to a pioneering, collaborative, highly cost-competitive and business-friendly environment. In tandem, The University of Liverpool is tackling global challenges at scale and pace by working with industrial, clinical and academic partners, nationally and internationally to accelerate research and deliver real world impact in digital and tech.”

Challenges

Q3. What, if anything, do you consider to be the biggest weakness(es) of Liverpool as a place to start and grow a technology business in? (Tick up to 3)

Support networks - accelerators, incubators, business programmes, skills bootcamps
Transport and infrastructure
Support from local government
Collaboration between businesses and networks across Liverpool
Digital infrastructure and connectivity
Diversity and inclusivity within workforce
Access to funding
Access to talent
Other, please specify
N/ A -I do not consider anvthing to be the biggest strengths) of this
Increasing public and private sector support

Increasing public and private sector support
+

Steve Harris

Head of technology, business & commercial banking, Lloyds Bank

“Whilst Liverpool’s stature and reputation as a key UK tech hub continues to grow rapidly, the City Region does face into challenges to realise its potential, particularly when compared to more established technology ecosystems. Investment in infrastructure and establishing support networks are key to sustainable, long term success in the region – and despite the limitations called out in the research some positive steps are now being taken.

“Ensuring sufficient and inclusive access to these new support networks will be key to their success, raising awareness through a range of channels to realise their full value to the community.”   

Opportunities

Q4. Which of these measures, if any, do you think would have biggest impact in driving growth for Liverpool's tech ecosystem? (Tick up to 3)

Greater public-private partnerships for co-investment in technology SMEs
More careers guidance to educate young people on potentially pursuing a career in tech
Greater investment into transport infrastructure, within the region and to other regions
Better connections between Liverpool's technology businesses and university STEM degrees
Greater investment into digital skills training
More events and networks to foster collaboration across Liverpool
Greater investment into digital infrastructure, such as 5G and superfast broadband
Creating more specialist commercial properties / workspaces geared towards technology businesses
More growth programmes and entrepreneurs' support networkss
None of the above
More young people in tech

More young people in tech
+

Professor Anthony Hollander

Pro-vice-chancellor for research & impact and professor of stem cell biology, University of Liverpool

“Our world-leading academics are driving healthtech and AI through research in developing AI-powered body scans to improve type 2 diabetes diagnosis, AI solutions to reduce vision loss for people with diabetes, AI systems capable of analysing digital pathology images leading to improved diagnoses for diseases, like cancer at earlier stages and creating a hotbed for healthtech through the LCR Life Science Investment Zone.

“Scientists from our Materials Innovation Factory and Chemistry Department are developing the next-generation of sustainable materials for consumer products to transform the global chemical supply chain and help the UK achieves its net zero target – and AI tools to accelerate the discovery of new materials and automated materials discovery using our own bespoke robotic platform to speed up formulation process.”