Liverpool’s £81 million Materials Innovation Factory has been officially opened by Royal Society president and Nobel Laureate, Sir Venki Ramakrishnan.
The facility – a collaboration between the University of Liverpool and Unilever – aims to accelerate research and reduce the time taken to develop new products which could address societal challenges.
It combines materials chemistry expertise with computational and robotic equipment, and provides laboratory and office space for university researchers and Unilever scientists from the firm’s Research and Development (R&D) Centre for Home Care and Personal Care products in Port Sunlight.
Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society and Nobel Laureate, says: “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.”
Professor Dame Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool, adds: “The opening of the Materials Innovation Factory is an important milestone for the University of Liverpool. The institution is known for its world-class research in advanced materials and these impressive new facilities will serve to further accelerate progress.
“The applications for our research in this area are truly exciting, with the potential to answer some of the greatest challenges facing the world today in fields such as sustainable energy, healthcare and manufacturing.”
Located in Liverpool’s Knowledge Quarter, the 11,600 sq m building also houses the city’s contribution to the Henry Royce Institute – a national institute for materials science research and innovation; as well as the Leverhulme Research Centre for Functional Materials Design.
Research activity in the Materials Innovation Factory spans the fields of organic materials, inorganic materials, nanomedicines, sustainability, genomic sequencing and high throughput formulation.
Commenting further on the official opening, David Blanchard, chief R&D officer at Unilever, says: “This is an important next step for the partnership between Unilever and the University of Liverpool and a signal of our continued commitment to investment in the UK.
“With the world changing and innovating at a rapid pace, it’s key for Unilever R&D to work closely with strong, expert partners. The Materials Innovation Factory is a best practice example of this type of collaboration.”
The Materials Innovation Factory was awarded £11m through the government’s UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF), a programme administered by Research England (formerly HEFCE), which helped secure significant private co-investment towards the project.