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History of innovation across the Liverpool City Region

The Liverpool City Region has a rich heritage for innovation. From the birthplace of the railways in the 19th century to today’s AI research institutions – the region is famed for pioneering technological advancements that have shaped the UK and beyond.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is keen to see this past innovation continue into our future too – citing its ambition to invest 5% of LCR GVA in research & development by 2030, more than double the target set by Government (2.4%) for the UK.

So, where does this desire to create groundbreaking innovation begin? Arguably, the Rainhill Trials in 1829 were the catalyst for technological progress across the LCR. The trials, which ultimately led to the rollout of steam trains globally, were first designed to speed up the transport of goods from Manchester’s cotton mills to nearby docks to be exported. Their success, however, paved the way for rail travel across the rest of the world – building economies and transforming societies as a result.

Only 17 years later, in 1846, would Liverpool’s Albert Dock open to become the world’s first commercial wet dock. The dock became a vital gateway between the UK and the rest of the world, allowing British traders to export their goods while introducing our nation to new commodities, including tea, silk and tobacco.

By the mid-19th century, Liverpool’s contribution to industrial and technological progress had supported the growth of the UK economy and was actively transforming countries across the globe.

Fast-forward to today and similar groundbreaking innovation continues to take place across the city region.

In 2019, Liverpool City Council committed to making Liverpool a Net Zero Carbon city by 2030, while the rest of the LCR aims to meet the same goal by 2040. These targets have spearheaded the advancement of sustainable tech and low carbon innovation across the city region.

A 2023 report from Sustainable Ventures in collaboration with the Combined Authority and the Metro Mayor, outlined the economic potential of Liverpool becoming a Climate Tech Cluster. It highlighted four priority sectors for the region – including the electrification of transport, the marine and maritime sector, sustainable chemicals and manufacturing innovation.

Groundbreaking net zero technology is being trialled and tested every day across our region as a result, and the environmental innovation coming from the LCR has the potential to transform our future in the way early industrial revolution advancements altered our past.

A big part, however, of the current net zero innovation is the funding being dedicated towards it, which is allowing businesses and organisations to trial new technologies every day.

This funding is the reason Horizons exists. The programme is a joint partnership between the University of Liverpool’s VEC (Virtual Engineering Centre), Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and Edge Hill University to support businesses across the Liverpool City Region.

We’re funded by a £5.1m investment from the Government through its UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), with the sole aim of providing businesses on their path towards innovation with expertise, world-class facilities and funding to drive technological advancements.

The Liverpool City Region has always been at the forefront of innovation and with the funding and tools we have available to us today, we can make sure that continues well into our future.

To learn more about Horizons and how we can support your SME business, contact us at