Potential occupiers for Liverpool city region’s new £23m Maritime Knowledge Hub (MKH) are already coming forward, one of the project leaders has said.
At the Maritime Exchange, a national conference organised by Mersey Maritime, it was confirmed that the project, within Wirral Waters on Birkenhead’s waterfront, was finally set to become a reality.
The four MKH partners, Mersey Maritime, Peel Land & Property, Wirral Council and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, have now signed a heads of terms agreement that will allow work on the MKH to begin in summer 2021.
First announced at London Shipping Week six years ago, the MKH project will provide a national base for marine engineering research and development as well as skills training and business accelerator space. It will create 4,000 jobs in its first five years.
The 60,000 sq ft facility would be built around the Grade II-listed 19th century hydraulic tower building, a copy of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, close to the Birkenhead waterfront in Peel Land & Property’s Wirral Waters development.
Addressing the virtual Maritime Exchange conference, Richard Mawdsley, director of Peel L&P’s Wirral Waters project, said the MKH would drive forward skills, innovation decarbonisation and world be “critical” to the city region’s business eco-system.
“It is important to remember that maritime is not just about ships,” he said. “It comprises more than 30 sub-sectors, including manufacturing and professional services. This project will deliver green and inclusive growth.
“Today we are firing the starting pistol for the MKH. We are already in dialogue with a number of organisations who are interested in getting involved and we are saying to others come and be part of this transformational project.”
Praise for the MKH also came from UK Maritime Minister Robert Courts and his predecessor, MP Nusrat Ghani, who both addressed the conference. Mr Courts said: “The Northern Powerhouse is so-called because the north is a powerhouse with a rich and proud history of manufacturing, industry and skills. We are levelling up the national divide and that is why I am pleased to be supporting the work of Mersey Maritime.
“Mersey Maritime’s plan for a new Maritime Knowledge Hub here in one of the country’s key maritime regions are absolutely fantastic. As an island nation, the coastal regions around the UK are not only key for the maritime sector, but the nation as a whole.”
And Ms Ghani, a long-time ally of Mersey Maritime who pushed for the MKH while in Government, added: “What is really exciting is that it is going to become a hub for small and medium-sized enterprises as they come up with products and get them to the market. They will ensure that UK maritime is at the cutting edge – whether it is in AI or mitigating our impact on the environment.
“The levelling up agenda has always been key but more so when we are dealing with COVID-19. When we all worked together to put together Maritime 2050 which is our long-term strategy for maritime. Of course we were focused on technology, investing in people and getting through Brexit. We never thought about the impact of a pandemic.
“It is why a centre of excellence in the shape of the MKH is so important. It ensures that we have a flag in our country and a go-to place for knowledge, learning and sharing. It will create jobs in the area, bring opportunities and bring in greater investment as well.”