Liverpool John Moores University has teamed up with Mersey Maritime and Vestfold University College in Norway to bring together maritime clusters from the Atlantic region. The partners were invited to lead an EU funded workshop at the Atlantic Stakeholder Platform Conference in Porto to present to stakeholders their ideas to create a common platform to support innovation, research and higher skills. The conference is the first in a series designed to support delivery of the Atlantic Action Plan which is led by the Directorate-General for Maritime Policy, Ministry of Agriculture and Sea in partnership with DG MARE/European Commission. The plan is intended to stimulate jobs and growth in the regions of the five countries bordering the Atlantic (UK, Ireland, France, Portugal and Spain) and covers three themes investment in innovation in SMEs, research, and skills.
Ian Jenkinson, Director of the School of Engineering, Technology and Maritime at LJMU emphasised the importance of business clusters in economic development. The experience in Norway shows that successful clusters demonstrate high levels of innovation based on their ability to generate and share knowledge and to develop and attract skilled employees. He said: ‘Liverpool City Region has one of one of the largest clusters of maritime businesses outside London, and over eighty percent of these are SMEs whose interests Mersey Maritime represents. The aim of this partnership between Liverpool John Moores University and Mersey Maritime is to develop a model for knowledge based industrial development where concentrations of SMEs interact effectively with institutions in business, finance and education’
In her opening remarks to the conference Ms Lowri Evans, Director General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and Maritime Policy, emphasised the importance of projects which supported growth and jobs particularly in the SME sector. Chris Shirling-Rooke, Acting Chief Executive for Mersey Maritime, said: “Mersey Maritime was very fortunate to host a visit to Merseyside by Lowri Evans in June 2014, where she met with maritime sector SMEs that have benefited from EU funded support. Ms Evans heard at first-hand how EU-supported projects such as Mersey Maritime’s Sector Development Programme have successfully led to business growth and job creation.” He added: “Huge infrastructure projects on Merseyside including Liverpool2, the new deep water container terminal at the Port of Liverpool which will open in late 2015, are set to create around 20, 000 new jobs in the next decade, so ensuring the workforce has the right skills set to meet that demand is absolutely crucial.”
The combination of Mersey Maritime representing the maritime cluster, with its record in supporting business, and Liverpool John Moores University with it long established reputation in maritime education and research provides a good basis to lead the project. The team plan to hold a follow-up workshop in March to move the project forward to a full funding bid.