Plans to hold a month-long UK business 'expo' in Liverpool and Wirral has received full support from Government as part of its drive to rebalance the nation's economy and boost UK export growth.
The International Festival of Business, scheduled for 2014, is set to be the largest event of its kind in the UK since the Millennium Fair of 2000 and the Festival of Britain in 1951.
Taking place at sites in Liverpool and Wirral, the festival will exhibit excellence and trade and investment opportunities in the key sectors of Low Carbon, Port and Logistics and Knowledge, including life sciences, creative and digital, advanced manufacturing and professional and financial services.
Liverpool city region's higher education institutions will also be involved and a cultural programme will run alongside the festival with major events to attract and to showcase the city region and the wider North of England's compelling visitor offer.
The huge event, set to attract tens of thousands of visitors from more than 100 countries, is part of the Government's second phase of City Deals, which was conceived as a key component of the Lord Heseltine/ Sir Terry Leahy review: "Rebalancing Britain - Policy or Slogan".
Organisation of the event will be led by Liverpool City Council, through its economic development company, Liverpool Vision working in partnership with Wirral Council and the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.
It is estimated it will cost up to £15m to stage with funding coming from both the public and private sectors, generating an estimated return on investment of £100m of economic activity.
It is also supported by UK Trade & Investment; the Department for Business Innovation & Skills; the British Chambers of Commerce; as well as the Peel Group, which is developing the £10bn Mersey Waters scheme on both sides of the River Mersey and the International Trade Centre in Wirral.
Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, said: "We have held this ambition since returning from World Expo in 2010 and so this is a hugely significant moment in the continuing development of the city and the city region.
"We have made great strides in recent years forging new international relationships and trade partnerships, but the challenge is to inspire more businesses to grow, to export and to innovate and to open up new markets, both here and across the country.
"We also anticipate that hosting this huge event will project a positive image of the region's business landscape to potential investors and partners in the same way hosting European Capital of Culture in 2008 changed perceptions about Liverpool and our world class attractions.
"We are looking forward to working with our colleagues in Wirral, with whom we already have a close relationship through our promotion of the city region at the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 and in the development plans by Peel Group on both shores of the Mersey."
The festival will straddle the River Mersey with enhanced connections between Arena and Convention Centre Liverpool, a planned North Liverpool Investment Centre and the Wirral International Trade Centre during the period of the four week event.
Cllr Phil Davies, leader of Wirral Council, said: "While hosting the International Festival of Business will bring great benefit to our region and the North of England, it will be a festival for the whole of the UK and we will be developing our plans with key national partners to ensure that this event is one to make the region and the nation proud.
"It will help promote our shared vision that the Mersey can once again be a key global trading centre, showcasing enterprise zones and inspiring business in the UK to connect to growth markets and to double UK exports by 2020.
"Wirral is already firmly committed to this action plan as reflected in the progress we have made with the International Trade Centre which will be the first of its kind in the UK and the largest trade centre in Europe."
Max Steinberg, chief executive of Liverpool Vision, who is to chair the strategic delivery group, said: "There is no question that the city region has the assets and the expertise to host an event of this scale.
"We have an excellent track record in delivering or contributing to world class events from the International Garden Festival in 1984, through Capital of Culture in 2008, the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress and Sea Odyssey earlier this year."