Metro Mayor visits the Heath
Metro Mayors Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham say The Heath regeneration model should be at the heart of our future industrial strategy
The Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region and The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham, visited The Heath in Runcorn yesterday to find out more about the unique regeneration model which has rejuvenated the site turning it into one of the UKs leading independently-run business and technical parks.
The Heath is a prime example of developing and retaining skills and expertise in the North West and adapting to suit the needs of changing industries and sectors. I have been impressed by this vibrant industrial base in Runcorn, housing a number of cutting-edge companies which are very obviously doing well, said Andy Burnham.
Mr Burnham also highlighted the strong links forged between universities in Greater Manchester and companies based at The Heath, and added that he believed the sites owner and operator, SOG Group, had created a unique regeneration model which was an example of how to breathe new life into locations forced to downsize or threatened with closure.
Mr Burnham said: Building networks between academia and businesses, big and small, is central to achieving economic prosperity and developing a varied skills base. He added: Both myself and Steve Rotheram, as Metro Mayor of Liverpool, are developing local industrial strategies and facilities like this should be at the heart of our thinking.
Steve Rotheram said the site regeneration of The Heath had provided an important infrastructure with its facilities. He added: But in all honesty its the type of businesses and some of the innovations that I was most fascinated by.
Mr Rotheram highlighted the vast range of research they had been shown at The Heath, including tissue and joint regeneration, manufacturing artificial blood, nanotechnology and cutting-edge environmental science using polymers to dramatically reduce the worlds carbon footprint.
He praised SOGs regeneration business model and added: I think the only way UK plc will be able to recover from a post industrialised wipe out and what happens in a post-Brexit world is to
use facilities in a different way to try to encourage indigenous businesses to start to look at innovation.
He said Liverpool City Region is ideally placed for this process by exploiting the regions history and the future potential.
The Mayors were told that the former ICI chemicals headquarters had been transformed by the SOG Group into an award-winning centre for business and science which is currently home to over 120 businesses employing around 2,000 people. SOG Group Managing Director John Lewis believes his companys unique business model is a template for regeneration of other large sites around the country which may be down-sizing or closing.
Mr Lewis says: Using the SOG model it is possible to breathe new life into threatened sites protecting facilities, attracting new businesses and creating new job opportunities. These facilities dont just provide an environment to work in, they can also become important community assets for the enjoyment of local residents and community groups too as we have seen here at The Heath and in London at our sister-site, Londoneast-uk.
Regeneration is a key part of the Mayors remits and I feel SOG is well-paced to offer advice and guidance to both Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester on regeneration issues. Im also keen to work even more closely with local authorities to find ways of speeding up our own plans to build on our success to date.
In Runcorn we have done remarkable things by cleverly refurbishing 1960s buildings to make them fit for purpose for todays science innovation. However, we must look ahead to the next 20 years because we do need to modernise these buildings to keep pace with technological advancements ensuring they meet future exacting environmental standards. Our plans for The Heath over the coming five years will turn this site into probably the most advanced and environmentally-friendly business and technology centre in the North of England.
Following a briefing on SOGs regeneration model the Mayors were taken on a tour to see some of the cutting-edge science firms located at the site which are carrying out research and development in buildings that were once destined to be demolished. Mr Lewis says: These facilities are helping the North West to be one of the key regions in the UK for science innovation.
Mr Rotheram and Mr Burnham were introduced to three business:
• Nanoco Group plc, a world leader in the development and manufacture of cadmium-free quantum dots and nanomaterials, which is expanding its operations at The Heath after signing an agreement to develop and sell its products to a large, undisclosed US corporation. Nanoco, which has its UK headquarters in Manchester, launched its existing facility at The Heath in 2010 where it designs and manufactures quantum dots and other nanomaterials for use in LCD televisions, monitors and lighting systems.
• SpheriTech, a leading life-science company has been awarded a grant from innovation agency Innovate UK to help fund a £100k pioneering research project to develop artificial
blood. SpheriTechs synthetic blood, SpheriSome® Hb, could revolutionise the treatment of trauma patients. Each year more than three million transfusions take place in the UK with the NHS Blood Transfusion Service collecting 1.7 million litres of blood in England and Wales which is given to around 500,000 patients.
SpheriTech are also undertaking pioneering work to develop technology that will revolutionise the way physicians repair joints, with a particular focus on repair of hip
lesions. The company is already making great strides on spinal cord repair and skin healing.
• Econic Technologies: Technicians from SOG have helped construct a state-of-the-art customer demonstration plant for clean-tech pioneers Econic Technologies. The new plant, the first of its kind in the UK, enables Econic to showcase its cutting-edge catalyst
technologies in a bespoke industrial unit to demonstrate how harmful CO2 emissions can be converted into valuable raw materials for use in everyday products such as automobiles, bedding and footwear.
Following their site tour Mr Rotheram and Mr Burnham met with other businesses located at The Heath in a networking session also attended by Halton Borough Council Leader Rob Polhill and Chief Executive David Parr.
About The Heath
The Heath Business and Technical Park is a phenomenal regeneration success story. Formed in 2000, its owner and operator, SOG Ltd, has transformed a once single occupancy corporate facility into a thriving independent business park. The Heath now provides office and laboratory accommodation for more than 120 individual organisations, ranging from business services and IT specialists to those at the cutting edge of science, research and advanced manufacturing. Around 2,000 people are employed at the site. For further information, telephone 01928 515988 or visit www.theheath.com
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PAUL SMITH ASSOCIATES
24th April 2018