Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has visited Wirral Waters to see the site of a proposed centre of excellence for the maritime and marine sector.
The £20m Maritime Knowledge Hub is set to open in 2020 in collaboration with Mersey Maritime business organisation, Liverpool John Moores University, Wirral Council and the Peel Group.
Focused on the maritime and marine sector, it will provide up to 60,000 sq. ft of business growth space, specialist teaching and training facilities for degree apprenticeships, innovation, and space for schools outreach and cultural activities. It will also provide the home for an offshore survival training centre.
The global marine and maritime sector is valued at £3,300bn, with around £3.5bn of sales generated from within the Liverpool City Region. The region has one of the largest clusters of maritime businesses and supply chains in Europe spanning some 1,300 businesses.
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has pledged to fund offshore tidal and other energy infrastructure on an ambitious scale, eventually powering 1000s of homes and workplaces with sustainable energy. He sees the Maritime Knowledge Hub part of this vision. “Clusters of vocational training, academic excellence and industry are crucial to developing our key growth sectors. This international centre of excellence at Wirral Waters will help drive the development of the city region’s marine & maritime sector and will support our ambition to be self-reliant on renewable energy by 2050, It’s further evidence that we are aligning our economic, industrial and skills strategies in a way to deliver a step-change in growth and prosperity,” he said.
The Government’s Industrial Strategy also seeks greater links between innovation, research and commercialisation of concepts, and the team behind The Maritime Knowledge Hub hope it will become a model that others across the country will learn from.
Chris Shirling-Rooke, Chief Executive of Mersey Maritime, said: “This will be a real game-changer, not just for the maritime sector but for the whole city region economy.
“Our local maritime sector is an industry powerhouse, with recognised world-class expertise, and is now seen as the UK leader. We account for 13% of Merseyside’s annual GVA and employ more than 28,000 people.
“We can be in the vanguard of Britain’s post-Brexit push for a bigger slice of global trade. The Maritime Knowledge Hub will ensure we are at the forefront of innovation in technology, skills and business growth.”
Cllr Phil Davies, Leader of Wirral Council and cabinet member for economic development and culture in the Liverpool City Region said: “Wirral has a hard-fought and deserved a reputation as a centre of excellence for clean energy manufacturing and innovation.
“We are seeing consistent growth and momentum in the market, with Ørsted opening their £10m new facility recently, market-leading Steam Marine Training choosing Wirral as their base and historic Cammell Laird continuing their renaissance through winning more and more business. This is clear further proof of our position at the centre of this growing industry.
“The industry is creating jobs and bringing new skills and expertise to the area, and I am delighted the Metro Mayor is so committed to ensuring our region is powered by clean, renewable energy. The River Mersey is part of our heritage and our DNA, and it’s absolutely right that it’s a fundamental part of our future, too.”
Richard Mawdsley, Director of Development at Wirral Waters, said: “The Maritime Knowledge Hub is a great example of what’s possible through true collaboration. Wirral Waters is more than just new buildings. It is about proper regeneration, and that means jobs. By investing in both skills and world-class facilities, all focused on high-value growth sectors like the maritime and marine sector, we can create good quality training and career opportunities.”
The Maritime Knowledge Hub will be focused on the Grade II listed Hydraulic Tower building, which is a copy of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Bombed in the war and now largely derelict, the Hydraulic Tower is an important part of the history and heritage of the Dock Estate. The Tower building will once again become a beacon for the area, positioned at the very heart of Wirral Waters.
The scheme is currently out to architectural competition, with world-class architects putting forward a range of innovative solutions using the highest standards of design.
If all goes to plan, with funding in place and detailed planning granted, activity on site will start this year and the centre will open in 2020.
Its refurbishment is seen as a barometer of progress for Birkenhead, creating a centre for Marine entrepreneurship, enterprise, skills and culture to support other the Marine & Maritime sectors.
The Maritime Knowledge Hub project will be showcased at the Mersey Maritime Annual Awards on 8th March 2018.