Why Liverpool is the perfect UK base for Irish business
With Brexit looming, many Irish businesses are seeking to establish a UK base and Liverpool City Region is emerging as the choice for many
Liverpool’s location at the heart of the UK’s largest city region outside of London places it within reach of seven million people
With the challenges presented by Brexit seemingly growing by the day, an increasing number of Irish firms are considering establishing a UK presence. This would place them inside Ireland’s single most important national export market and in a much better position to deal with any new trade and tariff barriers which may be raised after March 2019.
Liverpool has emerged as a destination of choice for many firms of late. And little wonder. Apart from the historic ties with this most Irish of British cities, Liverpool City Region offers considerable attractions to firms locating there.
Its location at the heart of the UK’s largest city region outside of London places it within reach of seven million people in just an hour’s drive. The scale of the market opportunity is further illustrated by the fact that 15 million people, almost three times the population of Ireland, are within a two-hour drive and the entire UK is easily reachable.
Industry based in the city can draw from a talent pool of over 213,000 students from 13 universities. Furthermore, the research base is first class, with 81 per cent of University of Liverpool research rated world-class or internationally excellent. Connectivity is another strength, with London just a two-hour train ride away on an hourly service. The Liverpool City Region also boasts two international airports with regular flights to Dublin from John Lennon Airport.
“The links between Ireland and Liverpool have always been very strong,” says Ellen Cutler, director of investment and business growth with development agency Invest Liverpool. “With Brexit looming there is a renewed recognition of the importance of the trading relationship between the UK and Ireland. Ireland accounts for 10 per cent of the UK’s exports to the UK. In fact, the UK exports more to Ireland than it does to China.”
In 2017, those exports were worth £34 billion, a record high. UK imports from Ireland that year were £21.8 billion, also a record high. This represented the fifth successive year of growth in UK imports from Ireland.
We are not looking for companies to relocate, we want them to choose Liverpool to expand and grow
“Someone said something the day after the Brexit vote that struck a chord with me,” Cutler continues. “They said the UK had been a trading nation for 200 years before EU membership and will be one again afterwards. There has been a trend over the past number of years of Irish companies setting up in Liverpool. They are coming here for ease of access to the UK market, competitive costs and access to talent, among other reasons.”
Invest Liverpool offers businesses locating in the city region a range of supports, from finding premises to recruitment as well as introductions to potential customers and partners. “It’s a handholding service that begins before a company even lands here,” says Cutler. “We try to be reactive to their requirements. We want businesses to succeed. We help them engage with relevant networks. We are working with a number of life sciences companies to help them test products and services with the NHS, for example. Businesses don’t have to start from scratch and our strong networks and connections help them get to the first sale quickly. We are not looking for companies to relocate, we want them to choose Liverpool to expand and grow.”
Invest Liverpool takes a partnership approach with client firms. “It’s about understanding how they fit into the existing business landscape here. Liverpool has acknowledged strengths in a number of key industry areas including creative and digital, life sciences, energy and environment, and financial and business services and we connect new businesses to them.”
“We are here to help with every aspect of expanding a business into the city,” she continues. “Companies can benefit from loans, grant funding and incentives for start-up costs, new projects and training.”
They can also benefit from a unique service offering from Invest Liverpool. “Companies can use Liverpool as a base to access the whole UK market,” Cutler explains. “We have a London office and we put this at the disposal of client firms. Companies don’t have to be in London every day, they might just need to be there a few days a month. We offer them space in our London office to do that, we are the only regional development agency in Britain to offer that service.”
This compelling offer has placed Liverpool firmly on the international investment map. “The city has gone through a major transformation over the last 10 years and we are receiving a lot of interest from international investors as well as from London,” Cutler concludes. “Many of these companies are attracted to Liverpool by the access to talent and the quality of life here. Employees can afford to live and work in the city and that’s very important.”
For more on opportunities in the Liverpool City Region, see investliverpool.com