New £81 million Materials Innovation Factory opens
A new £81 million Materials Innovation Factory has opened at the University of Liverpool, bringing materials chemistry experts together with cutting edge robots and computers to meet society’s future challenges.
The Materials Innovation Factory. Image courtesy University of Liverpool
UK Research and Innovation’s Research England has invested £11 million into the factory through its flagship scheme – the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF).
One of the aims of UKRPIF, the largest competitive grant funding scheme managed by Research England, is to encourage strategic partnerships between higher education institutes and other organisations active in research, as well as strengthening the contribution of the research base to economic growth.
In keeping with these key objectives, the Materials Innovation Factory is based on a strategic partnership between Liverpool University and global consumer goods company Unilever.
Unilever provided up to £25 million in co-investment, with an additional input of £4.5m for equipment and software, and will base a key part of its research and development function at the facility. Other co-investment includes £10.9m from Royce and £34.8m from the University of Liverpool itself.
Sam Gyimah at the Materials Innovation Factory in Liverpool
Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Sam Gyimah, called the facility “inspiring.”
“I want to see the UK continue to grow its reputation as an innovation superpower and with government and private sector investment in new research facilities like this one in Liverpool, we are striving towards our ambition for 2.4% of GDP to be spent on research and innovation by 2027,” he added.
The 11,600 square metre building boasts one of the highest concentrations of materials science automation technology in the world and can accommodate a range of academic and industrial researchers on a flexible, open-access basis, enabling cross-disciplinary collaborations, networking and knowledge exchange.
President of the Royal Society and Nobel Prize winner, Professor Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, opened the facility on 3 October.
“The strength of material science in the North West is, to a great extent, built on the collaboration between academia and industry which is so well embodied in the Materials Innovation Factory. Whether it is human health, sustainability or a range of other areas, advanced materials offer tools by which we can tackle some of the big challenges we face on the global stage. The range of expertise here in Liverpool can make a big contribution to meeting those challenges and to driving economic growth,” he said.
The centre is also the Liverpool hub for chemical materials discovery within the Henry Royce Institute, strengthening the university’s ties with other members of the institute including the Universities of Manchester, Sheffield, Oxford and Cambridge.
Inside the Materials Innovation Factory. Image courtesy University of Liverpool
“The Materials Innovation Factory embodies our objectives for UKRPIF. Thanks to Unilever’s commitment, the facility will enable the University of Liverpool to develop and expand its world-renowned chemistry department, strengthen ties with industrial and academic partner organisations and help leverage considerable investment in UK research and development,” said Research England’s Executive Chair, David Sweeney.
“The scheme is a key contributor to the government’s commitment to see research and innovation investment rise to 2.4% of GDP. The centre’s diverse pool of researchers, combined with cutting-edge equipment and facilities, will address global challenges, explore new opportunities in materials science, and, through world-leading research, help to grow the UK economy.”
Research England is responsible for funding, engaging with and understanding English higher education institutions. It is one of the nine organisations that make up UK Research and Innovation.
Find out more about the government’s Industrial Strategy here.