BRINGING A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITIES TO LIVERPOOL
So, the International Business Festival: Leading industry speakers, top politicians, delegates from all over the world... but what did it ever do for Liverpool?
Well, quite a lot, as it turns out.
Throughout the three-week event, we've been speaking to attendees from across the region to get their take on what the Festival brings to the city region.
Here's what they told us...
Paul Silcock, who works in the Edge Lane R&D site of Bristol BlueGreen, which creates cost-saving voltage management systems, said: “We’re looking for opportunities for business or to meet other electrical distribution companies who might want to take advantage of what we’ve developed. So far, I’ve met delegates from Uganda, Nigeria, a few from China. It’s all been really useful.”
Jonathan Quinn (pictured, right) runs five companies, including EV Range Extender Ltd which has created the RangeX micro-engine to power electric vehicles when their charge runs out.
“The opportunities not just for our business but other businesses I’ve spoken with have been massive,” he said. “We have had traction and deals locally, nationally and internationally from the Festival,” said Mr Quinn, who is Wirral Chamber’s vice-chair for energy and the environment.
He said the company’s chairman – the former Denbyware CEO Lionel Simons - had flown from California to attend the event. “It was his first time in the city and he was blown away by the level of credibility and variety, and most of all the friendliness from everyone he met.”
Mr Quinn said he was working with Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Chester on his product, with a view to manufacturing 100,000 units per annum, rising by 30% year-on-year, and creating hundreds of jobs in the Liverpool City Region by 2025.
“I've been to all the Festivals and 2018 has been the best yet; it has catapulted our range and opportunities,” he said, adding that company director Vighnesh Daas had connected with the Department for International Trade and delegates from his native India with a view to generating international licensing opportunities.
Ben McWilliams, of central Liverpool immersive tech specialists Draw & Code, spent Creative Industries Day showing off the company's SwapBots interactive toys at the UK Innovation Hub, which showcased some of Britain's most forward-thinking companies.
“It’s definitely been useful to be here and being at this event is good for us to make sure we stay in people’s minds," he said. "I’ve been to a lot of events that are all over the place in terms of organisation but I’ve had a walk round and the layout of the event is stunning.
"So it’s nice to be from the city and come here to see this. We don't really do hard sell. The way we meet clients is that people are interested, we exchange business cards and three years down the line they might come back with some funding. This morning has been very busy with business owners."
Geoff Lyon, was demonstrating the range of lightweight temperature-controlled packaging made by his Allerton-based company ChillBuddy. He said: “Innovation, drive and ambition are the lifebloods of what we’re trying to do. This is the right forum to achieve all that and indeed more. Why wouldn’t you want to come to Liverpool – it’s magnificent. From heads of business to people in government, all these people are here trying to demonstrate how good things can be.
“To be quite honest, I would do all this again next month."
Peter Hatton MBE, logistics director of Knowsley security blind manufacturer Abbey Group, was manning an international marketplace stand during the Festival's first week. He said: “I’ve had a lot of interest. It’s quality rather than quantity. We’ve had some good inquiries and met some really interesting people today. The other directors are looking to speak to some investment people too.
“We did well with one project we picked up here in 2016 and we are hoping that will come to fruition in the next couple of months. It’s with a government; infrastructure and projects where we have to spec things up so it’s not a quick and easy win. In the next two months that should come to fruition.”
Molly McGuinness, biomedical engineer for 3D LifePrints which has bases at both Alder Hey Children's Hospital and the Royal Liverpool Hospital, was showing off a variety of 3D-printed models used for purposes such as pre-surgical planning, patient-doctor communications and surgical simulations.
“It’s been useful," she said, explaining that the company had been invited to exhibit on the Invest Liverpool stand.
"There’s been quite a lot of interest generally in what they are and why they use them. We’ve had three inquiries which could potentially move forward, including one from a doctor in Birmingham.”
Jason Taylor, pictured far right, heads up Alder Hey Children’s Hospital's innovation team. He spoke about his work on the Knowledge Hub and was approached by a several members of the audience afterwards.
"There were clinical staff looking to share information, industrial partners and people from overseas. A lot were looking for co-creation opportunities," he said. “I’m coming here to find that next generation of partners. I don’t know who they are but they are in the room. Any of the cool projects I was showcasing up on the stage started with a cup of tea in an environment like this.
"I’m interested in finding not just health partners but if you’re working in manufacturing and don’t realise you have a solution for health, my clinicians might say ‘well, if you turn that upside down it will work for us’."
He gave the example of Liverpool John Moores University researchers using sensors to measure lactate levels - a sign of stress - in animals before slaughter. A product developed to avoid degredation in the taste of meat had been re-purposed for use on babies.
“We’ve got to have an environment like this to make those two worlds come together," said Mr Taylor. "If you’re in the right location, meet good people and you have a forum like the one here today then good things will happen."
Tom Rowlands, a health and wellbeing producer for Liverpool Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, presented outcomes from the Dementia Connect programme developed with Bristol's University of the West of England. "We’ve had a lot of interest, with business cards from all over and [digital health entrepreneur] Lord Drayson came over to find out about it and ask us some questions," he said.
The project recorded the stories of people suffering dementia and their carers, and used the arts, culture and creativity to explore links between music or flavour and memory, how sports clubs could lead community efforts to cope with dementia .
“We’ve been exhibiting around the city but it’s great to be in a business environment. There are a lot of healthcare practitioners and health-tech entrepreneurs with a strong interest in it. People are seeing the methods we adapted well for the arts and applying them in a health innovation aspect.”
No Festival would be complete without a sprinkling of stardust, and former Liverpool FC captain and England international footballer Jamie Carragher was impressed with what he saw at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool, when he attended to discuss developing links between his hometown and its twin city of Shanghai.
“I’ve had a quick look round the Festival site and it’s great that it’s in the city. We’ve had it here a few years and it’s massively important to keep it in the city.
"There are people looking to invest in the city and I don’t think there’s a better place to do it.”
In the blue corner, former WBC World Cruiserweight champion boxer Tony Bellew appeared as an ambassador for Sport, Culture & Travel Day sponsor SportPesa.
“There’s so many things here I’m amazed at seeing and I’ve only just walked in," he said shortly after his arrival.
"The site is phenomenal. This must have taken an incredible amount of planning to get ready. Imagine the connections you can make in the Global Connections Lounge," said the boxer.
Mr Bellew said he invested 90% of what he earned through sport, punditry and acting into property in Liverpool.
"To have all this here in my home city and see it moving forward is great. It’s such a great city with huge potential which can be tapped into in places like this.
“We’ve got the whole world in Liverpool seeing the amazing sites. So many investors are looking at Liverpool as a place to come. And I’m happy to be a part of that.”
While the Festival aims to help all businesses grow by arming them with the knowledge and insight they need, and helping them to connect with potential partners at home and abroad, it has a direct effect on the companies who help deliver the event.
Gary McFarlane, co-founder of Oblige, which provided services including a chatbot to help any delegates with accessibility issues, said: "Attending the 2018 International Business Festival as a Liverpool-based supplier has been fantastic for Oblige.
"It's great to see such a prominent global conference ensure their delegates with disabilities have both digital and on-site access to vital accessibility information, and also embrace the advances in technology, such as AI, to deliver this information.
"A very welcome by-product of being a supplier has been the invaluable exposure and genuine interest we have had from some organisations, both large, small, local and global. We anticipate significant opportunities will arise and whilst at the festival we have been confirmed as finalists in the Merseyside Innovation Awards."
Speke-based Adlib have ensured smooth running of the Festival's stages, with its production team looking after audio and video elements and stage management.
MD Andy Dockerty said: “We believe that an event of worldwide recognition being based in Liverpool is not only a tremendous achievement for the city but provides fantastic opportunities for service industries such as ourselves.
"This event allows not only the city to show itself off but for Adlib to prove that a Liverpool company can provide a world-class service to support the ambition that the city has in bringing in such events. “