Liverpool Innovation Park attracts high tech businesses on basis of internet speeds
Liverpool Innovation Park has been building a high-tech cluster of businesses, attracted to the site by the data centre facilities offered by lead tenant AIMES Grid Services. AIMES provides cloud services, internet connectivity, server hosting, and myriad other technical services for the Innovation Park’s residents. As a Community Interest Company (CIC), it also supports both spin-outs from the University of Liverpool, and digital inclusion programmes across Merseyside, in St Helens, Runcorn, North Liverpool and Bootle. It is what technical director Richard Spragg describes as ‘a commercial grade product for pretty-much a domestic price.’
In May 2013 AIMES was awarded the Private Sector Data Centre Project of the Year for its innovative new data centre at the Innovation Park’s Kilby House, which is part of an ongoing £5 million infrastructure investment. Part of what the AIMES team describes as ‘a range of innovative projects to improve services to our existing and future clients’, the 10,000 sq. ft. facility is phase one of a new Cloud Computing Campus, which has the potential to increase to 35,000 sq. ft.
Bobby Earl is the technical director of Spiral House, a games developer based at the Innovation Park, which has been involved with titles including Stuntman, Motorstorm, Little Big Planet and World Racing. The business moved into Liverpool John Moores University’s incubation unit on the site following a move from Warrington, where it started in 1999. ‘We’ve moved between three or four different offices in the complex as we’ve grown,’ he says, ‘so it’s given us the flexibility to stay locally. The data centre provision at Liverpool Innovation Park is a major factor for us though: most internet providers offer great download speeds these days, but not upload speeds. Our clients are worldwide – from Germany and Spain to the US, so we’re constantly uploading huge files for them to review. And we have the advantage that AIMES are just across the corridor, so we can literally knock on their door. They’ve helped us with a variety of technical issues, including building tunnels for clients, recently, but their technical know-how has always been really responsive.’
‘The facilities we provide are based on the legacy of Marconi being here,’ says AIMES’ Richard Spragg. ‘They installed a high-voltage ring around the site which includes three substations. We’ve spent £1.5m on the new 1.5MW Kilby House datacenter, and you’d normally have to build a substation from scratch to serve that, whereas there’s over 12MW of power provision already on site. It’s an excellent legacy, and is the foundation for the systems we’ve got in place today.’ Indeed, it’s enough of a draw to attract tenants in its own right. Chris Holmes is marketing director at Zut Media – one of the site’s newest tenants – whose core business is in video production and digital and event services. He says: ‘we formed the business in 2008, but, doing an audit of our clients – and the people we wanted to work with, too – most of those businesses were in Liverpool, as were the networks we wanted to tap into. When we started looking around for space here, our main requirements were great upload and download speeds, a building we could use to film in, and a car park.’ Good internet connectivity was a key part of their criteria when relocating: ‘we often transfer and upload files of over 2GB for clients all over the world. At our old site, we’d leave a file to upload, and it’d take between 24 and 26 hours, during which time we couldn’t do anything else on that machine. Or we’d have to burn it onto DVD and put it in the post. We uploaded a similar sized file the other day and it took 45 minutes. That sort of difference saves our clients time and money, and gives them a better service overall.’
Innovation, in fact, is something AIMES has a reputation for, and is always looking to future opportunities. ‘Talking about “Cloud computing” is only something most people have picked up on recently’ says Spragg, ‘but we’ve been involved in “utility computing” since our inception in the 1990s.’
Innovation and internet connectivity will also help Zut grow the business, and move into new service areas. ‘We’re an innovative agency,’ says Holmes, ‘and are always looking towards the next big thing. We’re working on new products around live webstreaming, for clients who’re looking for virtual events, online training and for green reasons, too. That sort of speed is essential for those services. It’s not something we’d be able to consider, otherwise.’
Delyth Lloyd, LIP’s Innovation Manager, says: ‘It’s crucial that we can provide tenants with the right level of internet connectivity, whether they’re a growing tech business or a large corporate. That’s why we enable a low cost, flexible ICT package with the option to vary bandwidth to accommodate changing workloads, as businesses grow. As a result, businesses often choose our serviced offices because we can tailor a package to suit without high set up costs and lengthy contracts.’