A Liverpool trust is to seek Department of Health investment in a “bio-innovation centre” on its site, after a report commissioned by the prime minister endorsed the proposal.

The report, by former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine and ex-Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy, dealt with the economic regeneration of the city region. It recommended that “immediate priority” should go to developing the proposed centre, on the site of the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals Trust.

Trust chief executive Tony Bell this week told HSJ that the report’s backing was “very significant”, and he was aiming to conclude discussions with potential funders by April 2012.

The purpose of the £26m bio-innovation centre would be to provide laboratory space, business support and commercialisation expertise to fledgling life sciences companies. Life sciences currently account for around 57,000 jobs in Liverpool. Mr Bell said: “We think we can create another 58,000 jobs by 2020 using this type of facility.”

The trust is working to establish whether it can fund the project through “match funding” from public sources, or to seek equity investment from a private sector partner, he explained.

“We would prefer to find match funding, partly to maintain as much control over this as possible, rather than go down a line where we ceded significant control to a third party commercial investor,” Mr Bell said. “That’s a possibility, but it’s not as desirable as finding match funding from the government or European funding.”

The trust has been discussing the possibility of government funding with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, but its conversations about the potential for DH funding had been “more limited until now”, he continued.

“It’s something I will be wanting to raise with them now that we’ve got this endorsement,” he said.

The development of the bio-innovation centre is planned as a part of a wider redevelopment of the Royal Liverpool’s site, including a private finance initiative rebuilding of the Royal Liverpool University Hospital. The trust is in competitive dialogue with two bidders for the £451m PFI contract, and the new hospital is scheduled for completion in 2016-17, Mr Bell added.