Why The Merseyside Economy Needs More SciTech Research & Development

A recent meeting of the North West Business Leadership Forum and The Mersey Partnership has focused minds on how to engage the Knowledge Economy at its highest levels. Reseach and Development are universally understood to enhance economies. The challenge now for Merseyside entrepreneurs and businesses is therefore to grasp the exciting opportunities emerging via our growing high-tech knowledge base.
On Thursday (10 November) this week I went to a joint North West Business Leadership Forum / Mersey Partnership forum in Liverpool. Attendance was high, this being the first opportunity for some of us to hear the views of Robert Crawford, the new Chief Executive of The Mersey Partnership.
Robert’s analysis of where Merseyside ‘is at’ was of course worth hearing. In just six weeks he has obviously seen and digested a great deal, and he shared some of his initial thoughts with us during his talk. What particularly encouraged me, however, was his emphasis on the Knowledge Economy at the highest levels: his questions around retention of post-grads as well as first degree graduates, and his challenge to our three local universities to increase ‘Reach In’ – the term used by States-side colleges for close alignment with local businesses, especially at a time when private corporates have to some extent reduced their own in-house research and development.
Nations don’t compete; businesses compete
Innovation, productivity and skills development, as MIT and other studies have told us, are globally the key to enterprise success. It follows therefore research and development are at least as important in Merseyside as anywhere else. Our sub-regional productivity is lower than elsewhere, but our higher education base is robust. The task is to bring the potential for R&D into play to increase productivity, as has happened dramatically in parts of China and elsewhere. Knowledge inevitably traverses continents freely, but it is up to businesses to engage it for their own use.
Places as far apart as Bangalore, North Carolina and Ireland have found ways to bolster their economies using very high skills. We in the North West of England now have the opportunity to do the same. Fortunately we have just secured a huge advantage via the new-found confidence in North West science at Daresbury and in Liverpool’s own university science base. It needs to be said, however, that this work is in every sense regional and (inter)national, as well as sub-regional. Merseyside will get nowhere in this vast emerging network of science and technology without collaboration with our erstwhile city-region competitors. None of us is big enough to do it on our own.
Moving forward
For the Merseyside economy and its people to flourish in this new context, as Robert Crawford said in his address, we need mechanisms in place to define our own sub-regional partnerships, and to identify and remove local impediments to progress. For this to happen we also need to map our baseline/s and to have confidence that public sector intervention will be carefully considered, timely and appropriate.
One part of this positive partnership development will be the increasing involvement of high-achieving people who have links with our city and sub-region; they may not all live here, but there are many other ways in which win-win synergies can be developed.
Daresburry Lab. & Innovation Centre 001.jpg For me, such synergies clearly include the huge numbers of high-skills liaisons which occur virtually and person-to-person in the North West’s world-class science programmes. But whilst there can be huge benefits for Merseyside which arise from these endeavours, we must never escape forget that the science itself is funded internationally, and its potential impact is global. Only if Merseyside’s local entrepreneurs take the time to grasp the opportunities to hand will we benefit particularly. The next challenge is to persuade enough of them that such apparently esoteric activity actually has relevance for their bottom line.

Posted on November 12, 2005, in Arts, Culture And Heritage, Education, Health And Welfare, Events And Notable Dates, Knowledge Ecology And Economy, Liverpool And Merseyside, Politics, Policies And Process, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Science Politics And Policy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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