One year since opening its doors, award-winning technical innovation centre Sensor City is successfully paving the way for Liverpool City Region to become a global hotspot for sensor technology.
The £15m centre has attracted 42 new businesses – 11 tenants and 31 hot deskers – since it was opened in November 2017 by Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Sensor City has worked with student start-ups, entrepreneurs and big businesses from America, Asia and Europe, to complete more than 45 projects to date, covering healthcare, sport and industrial – with a 50 per cent uplift in laboratory projects in the past three months. These projects have included 3D printing support, use of its specialist laser cutter and mechanical laboratory work and there is an increasing interest in access to the centre’s unique 3D electronic prototyping facility.
Engineers have also assisted with a further 27 projects through Sensor City’s partnership with LCR 4.0 – a part ERDF funded business support programme.
The centre, which is a joint venture between the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University and is backed by the University partners, BEIS and the European Regional Development Fund, is also working to attract big businesses from London and Manchester to Liverpool.
Dr Joanne Phoenix, Interim Executive Director at Sensor City, said:
“The progress we’ve made in the last year is really encouraging. We’ve surpassed what we thought was possible in terms of providing business support and bringing in state-of-the-art machinery, as well as attracting new tenancies and stimulating community engagement.
“Liverpool City Region is innovative by nature, so there are many new and existing companies coming up with pioneering ideas every day. It’s our job to make those ideas a reality through the advanced technology, funding, partnerships and expert support we provide. It’s great to see so many of these projects coming to fruition in our first year, with many more in the pipeline.”
As a flagship University Enterprise Zone, Sensor City is paving the way for bringing knowledge and experience in technology together through fostering industry-academic collaborations. It has established 12 partnerships in its first year, in addition to hosting almost 300 events at the building, with 10,000 people in attendance.
Additionally, Sensor City has established a corporate partner programme, linking major enterprises with SMEs to drive innovation and collaboration. Three of these have been undertaken to date with Unilever, EDF Energy and housing provider Halton Housing.
“Sensor City has certainly made its mark as a knowledge partner for Liverpool City Region through our corporate partner programme,” Joanne continued. “Big businesses present us with a challenge that they know they need to solve using cutting edge sensor and IoT technology, but don’t know how. We call on the innovative SME community in our ecosystem to help them solve that issue and from that, facilitate a potential corporate partnership and route to market for our SME community. We have also identified a number of SME synergies and facilitated introductions as a result of our activities.”
The long-term objectives of the technical innovation hub, as set out by BEIS, is to create 1,000 jobs and 300 businesses over the next decade.
“Looking ahead at the next 12 months, we have a major role to play in supporting our entrepreneurial students and also helping to create graduates – both from Liverpool City Region and further afield – who are more Industry 4.0 aware and ready. If we have the right talent pool in the region this will help encourage companies to come here.
“Additionally, if we want to attract and retain the best talent then we need to provide them with the high value jobs required to keep them – and that can only be good for the City Region. What we need now is to build a suitable mentor base and secure access to appropriate early stage funding to support the innovative companies that are coming to us,” Joanne concluded.