Robotic labs and AI development part of massive Merseyside sciences investment

Robotic labs to help develop treatments to fight deadly infections are among major projects in line to secure millions of pounds of funding across the Liverpool City Region.

The first tranche of programmes as part of the city region’s investment zone funding pot are to be signed off by members of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (CA) when it meets for the first time since this month’s Mayoral election. An initial seven schemes out of a total of 21 are included with more than £25m being sought to support them.

The projects include the development of vital work placements in health and life sciences as well as the progression of AI for the safe handling of pathogens.

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Dozens of schemes are being developed as part of a 10-year investment programme known as the innovation zone. It is thought the £160m project could create 8,000 jobs and stimulate up to £800m of public and private investment following an agreement with the UK Government and CA.

The first seven projects to be taken to the next phase when the authority convenes next week include the creation of a new £21m high-containment labs by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine-led iiCON (Infection Innovation Consortium). The labs will be equipped with robotics and AI that will dramatically accelerate the development of new treatments to fight deadly infections.

Final approvals are subject to further scrutiny.

The iiCON programme’s third phase, to be supported through the investment zone, will allow for the development of AI and lab robotics to safely handle pathogens, led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. A further 30 businesses could also be boosted by grant funding, support, training and access to Sci-Tech Daresbury’s world-class facilities.

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “From the moment I was elected mayor, it has been one of my priorities to cement our reputation as an attractive environment for businesses to invest. We are already home to world leading clusters in life sciences, gaming, advanced computing, and infectious disease control – but I am never content with resting on our laurels.”

Mayor Rotheram added how he wanted the city region to go beyond national targets and would invest heavily into research and development. He added: “I truly believe that innovation will be the fuel that powers our economy forward and by establishing ourselves as a hotbed of innovation and new technology, we will be ready to attract many more highly skilled, well-paid jobs, businesses and opportunities from around the world.”

The University of Liverpool will lead on a scheme in partnership with the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) to develop a Microbiome and Infectious Disease Innovation Hub. It seeks to support industry to develop and commercialise microbiome and infectious disease innovations and therapies, driving forward preventative medicines and alternatives to antibiotics, helping address antimicrobial resistance.

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