Prince Andrew visited the AstraZeneca site as part of Pitch@Palace 5.0, founded by the prince in 2014 to help entrepreneurs across the UK turn their ideas into successful businesses.

The event, at Alderley Park, was supported by AstraZeneca.

AstraZeneca announced in March 2013 its plans to stop research and development at the site, and it has now been taken over by Manchester Science Partnerships - with a 10per cent stake owned by Cheshire East - to create a new bioscience hub.

There are now around 40 life science companies operating at the site, around 3,000 people.

Pitch@Palace 5.0, which has a focus on biotech, healthcare and life sciences in particular, encouraged around 13 biotech entrepreneurs to pitch to a team of judges as part of the event.

Prince Andrew said: “Innovation and entrepreneurship is a cornerstone of our economy.

"Pitch@Palace provides a platform to accelerate and amplify the work of our entrepreneurs in the UK. To date, it has helped more than 100 companies.

"Biotech is an increasingly important area as we address global healthcare issues. It is also one in which the UK can become a global leader. I look forward to seeing these fledgling businesses develop and succeed in impacting on the lives of people across the globe.”

READ MORE: Alderley Park plans include 275 new homes, a village hub and space for life sciences

Promedstem, Exyo Design and Memrica have been selected to progress to a Boot Camp at the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus in Cambridge on February 22, where they will be joined by winners from two other regional heats.

Boot Camp will be a chance for the successful entrepreneurs to hear from experts from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Barclays, as well as competition alumni.

They will also receive mentoring. Success at the Boot Camp will lead to a chance to pitch at St James's Palace on March 7 to an audience of around 300 CEOs from across the sector, mentors and potential business partners.

Shaun Grady, vice president, business development at AstraZeneca said: “We are delighted to be involved with the Pitch@Palace initiative and to be supporting the next generation of UK biotechs.

"It’s fitting that today’s event is taking place at Alderley Park, a site which is home to over a thousand AstraZeneca staff and which has contributed enormously to human health through the products invented and developed by the scientists here.”

In 2013 AstraZeneca set up the BioHub at Alderley Park, which is now home to over 130 start-up companies. The site is now owned by Manchester Science Partnerships, which is continuing to develop the 400 acre site as a centre of excellence for biotech and life science innovation.