Only two areas in the UK, Merseyside and the Highlands and Islands, have EU "Objective 1" status, earmarked for economic regeneration, and the Highlands and Islands is still battling for a higher education institution. Liverpool University, however, has won some Pounds 15 million from the EC, channelled through the European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund.
According to Philip Love, the vice chancellor: "Our major involvement with the EU Objective 1 initiative for the regeneration of Merseyside reflects growing recognition of the importance of close partnerships between industry and higher education for the re-establishment of a strong economy in the region."
Under the links with industry, Pounds 4.4 million has been shared since 1984 between more than 30 training projects spanning graduate employment, computing, exporting, manufacturing and business development, the community and the environment. The computer science department has secured funding of Pounds 3.4 million to set up a world-leading Internet centre, "Connect", passing on expertise to local organisations which ensures that the area will be ready to capitalise on electronic marketing through the Internet when this takes off.
More than 400 local companies and 100 public sector and community organisations have already taken advantage of the scheme. Liverpool University's graduate into employment unit, founded in 1989, and run in collaboration with the Merseyside Innovation Centre, has helped 1,700 graduates to find permanent jobs, some at the end of their placement with local businesses, and others during the preceding development programme. Objective 1 funding of Pounds 1.3 million in 1994/95 helped the unit expand its work and keep a higher number of graduates in the region, especially in smaller companies.
The laser group of the department of mechanical engineering, which is the largest of its kind in the UK and has an international reputation for its work on the use of lasers in manufacturing, has been awarded more than Pounds 800,000 for an innovative programme which combines technology transfer, job creation and training in laser engineering.
The department of industrial studies is developing a product innovation and development centre for industry in the north-west, backed by Pounds 1.2 million. This features "rapid prototyping", creating three-dimensional objects from computer information. The ability to create prototypes quickly and accurately gives designers greater flexibility and allows manufacturers to cut the cost of developing new products.
Even the local landscape is benefiting from European links: the department of environment and evolutionary biology aims to transform 50 hectares of derelict land into sustainable woodland as part of a Pounds 316,000 project which will also develop peat-free planting compost for the region's horticultural and landscaping industries.