Getting to know the IFB 2014

Paul Unger speaks to Max Steinberg, chief executive of Liverpool Vision, about the emerging plans for the £15m UK business festival being held in the city next year.

PU: What is the International Festival for Business 2014?

MS: This is a UK festival of business with 50 events taking place over 61 days from June to July 2014 where our role is to be host city. We announced the first five or six events that will form part of the IFB at the start of March and a more detailed outline of the programme at our launch event in May. There will be themed weeks, for instance, we have been approached by universities to hold a Higher Education week, another looking at port logistics, one on low carbon, for creative and media and so forth. We have identified 70 venues not just in Liverpool city region but the wider North West including Daresbury, Arena & Convention Centre Liverpool, Media City UK. If necessary we will create a place for an exhibition somewhere on the Peel land at the docks.

The emerging programme can be found on the dedicated IFB 2014 website

MS: We have a target of attracting 250,000 visitors from other countries to be here and probably a similar number from within the UK as well. A dozen countries have already expressed interest in being here. Countries that expressed an immediate interest include Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Georgia, Mozambique, in addition to India with whom we have signed a memorandum of understanding. The Mayor [of Liverpool Cllr Joe Anderson] will be going to Doha and Shanghai to set up delegations to bring here. We are going to the east coast of America where people have indicated they want to come. So interest is hugely encouraging.

PU: Why do we need an International Festival for Business?

MS: It's about bringing together what Britain has to offer and bringing to Britain businesses, cities, venture capitalists and anyone interested in doing business. The target we've been set by government, as this is part of rebalancing Britain's economy, is £100m additional export flowing from Britain over the next five years. We want Bristol, Newcastle, Salford and other core cities to be part of this as well. Manchester can get involved and showcase their industry, be it intellectual property, graphene, new businesses, high growth businesses. If we can ensure as we intend to ensure that major parts of British industry are in Liverpool and major countries and cities from around the world then that has every opportunity for more business to be done.

PU: How will it be funded and resourced?

MS: The cost of the IFB 2014 is £15m but most of that will come from the private sector through sponsorship and ticketing. We have made a bid for European funding and there is input from our event partners Clarion Events and Montgomery Events.

The proposed funding sources are:

  • Government, through City Deal: £5m
  • Other national and regional pots such as Regional Growth Fund: £1m
  • Local public funds, such as ERDF: £2.5m
  • Private: sponsorship, ticket sales, investment: £6.5m

Details of sponsorship packages and the first sponsors to sign up have not been published yet but fees are understood to start at £500,000 to become a corporate partner and rise beyond £1m.

MS: Resources at Liverpool Vision are skinny, we're not only delivering IFB we are delivering everything else Vision does; north Liverpool regeneration framework, running Marketing Liverpool [part of Vision, under a separate chief executive, Chris Brown] the new city centre Strategic Investment Framework, we have taken this on in addition to everything else we do for the mayor.

There are 51 staff at Liverpool Vision including one apprentice and six secondments. A dedicated IFB manager, Phil Southward, was appointed in November. He previously worked with Cheshire Constabulary on a business improvement project and before that worked for Liverpool Vision and North West Development Agency as director of operations delivering the Liverpool pavilion at World Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

PU: The £5m from public funding is coming from Liverpool's City Deal pot. How does the IFB fit with City Deal priorities?

MS: Part of our City Deal proposal was gathered from Lord Heseltine and Sir Terry Leahy who said that there should be a big event like this. We see this being based in the city region but we are reaching out to the rest of the North West. In terms of reaching out we have spoken to Sir Howard Bernstein [chief executive of Manchester City Council] about this and he was at the launch in May speaking about how Manchester is getting involved. We are talking to Daresbury about events to be held there.

PU: What does Liverpool get out of this?

MS: I think this has the potential to be a game-changer for Liverpool and make Liverpool seen as a natural place to land these major events. The UK is in a competitive race for inward investment and Liverpool is part of that race. It's an interesting question because it raises the issue with me that when these things go to London it's not questioned as much – for me it needs to become almost de rigeur that Liverpool captures these events because we're a city that can capture major opportunities. I think we'll pull off a magnificent festival and having the backdrop of Capital of Culture, the Global Entrepreneurship Congress last year and the giants [Sea Odyssey street theatre in April 2012] I think the city is saying to a world where more and more of these big events are being put on that 'we can hold them' and our credentials will only be strengthened.

PU: Why not concentrate resources on improving the city's physical environment instead of a business festival?

MS: £15m is not being invested of public mone. Furthermore, I took the SIF to the mayoral development agency and cabinet, they endorsed the SIF and asked us to endorse and come up with priority list of deliverable projects. There is a Regional Growth Fund round 4 coming up and the mayoral fund. It's not a question of 'either or', it's a question of 'does the UK need to show it's open for business'. Answer: 'yes'. Has it done something like this for years and years? No. Is it proven by events like this that they attract new business? Yes.

MS: The SIF is a good document and we are operationalising the first range of projects under SIF to take forward in the next few years.

PU: What is being put into place to make sure there is a lasting legacy and it's not just a business circus passing through town?

MS: We will carry out an evaluation to make sure we measure the lasting benefit for the city and the city region. We have to track the investment that can be attributed to the IFB because we have targets. From what I'm seeing I don't think this is a business jamboree this is about providing an opportunity for people to do business. When people who want to do business meet with people who want to do business that's what makes business work. If we don't see a benefit for hotels, infrastructure, restaurants also I would be very surprised and we would be missing a trick.

PU: Is there a profit share with the external event organisers?

MS: At certain levels if this festival achieves certain returns those returns will be shared between Liverpool Vision and the event partners. Liverpool Vision has entered into a commercial relationship with Exhibition Event Partners, a joint venture between Clarion and Angus Montgomery. This relationship has been secured via a concessionary contract, which by its very nature, means that EEP, in delivering this event with Liverpool Vision, will share both the risk and reward associated with this event. Therefore, there is a profit sharing element to the contract, but there is also an element of risk where they underwrite an element of the private sector part of the budget. The detailed nature of these arrangements is however commercial in confidence.

PU: What amount of business was done as a result of the Expo in Shanghai in 2010 and last year's Global Entrepreneurship Congress?

MS: The last survey was done just under one year ago and more business wins are likely to have been won since, some we might never know of course. The figures below don't include deals won by Peel, either. Of those businesses that are considering or currently trading with China, 40% hadn't considered it before Expo; 25% of sponsors have appointed staff to work on their behalf in China; 30% of sponsors have already secured sales from China, with 60% of these stating this are in part attributable to their attendance at Expo; the value of these sales over the last 12 months is just over £3m; for those business who are now trading with China, but weren't doing so before Expo, it is estimated that sales and orders over the last 12 months is c. £3.5m.

MS: A total of 2,904 people attended the GEC main day event, with conservative estimates calculating contributed a £1m to the local economy. At 73%, hearing from top quality speakers was the main driver in attending the event, with Lord Heseltine and Richard Branson being by far the most popular sessions. The main day GEC event was an overwhelming success, with 85% of attendees stating the event had met their expectations of which 20% thought it had exceeded expectations; 80% of delegates left the GEC feeling inspired; 85% of delegates had been inspired by the keynote speakers; the GEC had provided useful networking opportunities for 56% of delegates; 61% of delegates thought the fringe events added value to the programme, with 60% of delegates having attended at least one fringe event; 66% of delegates identified having attended the GEC would positively impact on their business; 78% of delegates thought Liverpool was a good place to do business; 79% of delegates though Liverpool was an entrepreneurial city; holding the GEC in the city has helped promote the city, 34% of delegates knew very little about Liverpool before attending the GEC.

Your Comments

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Old Showman Max at his best again. All smoke and mirrors. Over 50 staff at Vision delivering what and where do they fit with the LEP army scrambling over the same bones?

By John Brown

51 staff at £30k each is a remuneration budget of over £1.5m plus offices, marketing budgets etc etc. Will Liverpool Vision bring £1.5m plus every year of added value to Liverpool? Pop down to Anfield and ask a few residents…

By John Browns Brother

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