June 2018 BUSINESS NETWORK Page 17

The transformation of Runcorn’s former ICI headquarters into a vibrant hub for 120 businesses has been praised as a regeneration model to boost the UK’s economy.

Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham visited The Heath in April to find out how the rejuvenated site has become one of the country’s leading independently-run business and technical parks. During their visit, the pair met businesses in a networking session with Halton Council Leader Rob Polhill and Chief Executive David Parr.

Approximately 2000 people are now employed in companies ranging from business services and IT to cutting-edge science, research and advanced manufacturing.

The Mayors met employees at three businesses on-site: Nanoco Group PLC, SpheriTech and Econic Technologies.

Mr Rotheram said it was ‘the type of businesses and some of the innovations’ he was most fascinated by, as well as being impressed by the vast range of research being carried out at the site – including tissue and joint regeneration, manufacturing artificial blood, nanotechnology and the use of polymers to dramatically reduce the world’s carbon footprint.

He added: “I think the only way UK PLCs will be able to recover from a post-industrial wipeout – and what happens in a post-Brexit world – is to use facilities in a different way to try to encourage indigenous businesses to start to look at innovation.”

Mr Burnham said: “The Heath is a prime example of developing and retaining skills and expertise in the North West and adapting to suit the needs of changing industries and sectors. I have been impressed by this vibrant industrial base in Runcorn – housing a number of cutting-edge companies which are obviously doing well.

‘Building networks between academia and businesses – big and small – is central to achieving economic prosperity and developing a varied skills base. Both myself and Steve Rotheram are developing local industrial strategies, and facilities like this should be at the heart of our thinking.”

SOG Group Managing Director John Lewis believes his company’s unique business model is a template for regeneration of other large sites around the country which may be downsizing or closing.

He said: “It is possible to breathe new life into threatened sites – protecting facilities, attracting new businesses and creating new job opportunities. These facilities don’t just provide an environment to work in; they can also become important community assets for the enjoyment of local residents and community groups too.

‘Regeneration is a key part of the Mayors’ remits and I feel SOG is well-placed to offer advice and guidance to both Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester on regeneration issues. I’m also keen to work even more closely with local authorities to find ways of speeding up our own plans to build on our success to date.”

Mr Lewis also explained that plans re in place for The Heath over the coming five years to turn the site into ‘probably the most advanced and environmentally-friendly business and technical centre in the North of England’.