The leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, and Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, visited the University of Liverpool’s Materials Innovation Factory (MIF) on Sunday as they took time away from their Party conference.
Sir Keir and Rachel were welcomed to the University by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tim Jones, alongside Professor Anthony Hollander, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact and Professor Laura Harkness-Brennan, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research & Impact for Science & Engineering.
Professor Andy Cooper, Academic Director of the MIF, showed Sir Keir and Rachel the MIF’s Robotics Lab, which is at the forefront of developing AI-powered robotics for R&D.
Professor Cooper discussed the important role that automation robotics is playing in accelerating materials science discovery and how he and his team built the world’s first mobile robotic scientist. Reported in the journal Nature, the robot scientist uses AI to work uninterrupted for weeks at a time allowing it to analyse data and make decisions about what experiments to do next.
Sir Keir Starmer said: “Growing the economy is a central mission of an incoming Labour government. To grow, we need to innovate. Facilities such as the Materials Innovation Factory are at the forefront of that innovation, connecting industry with academic expertise to solve the world’s problems.
“By bringing together our country’s bright young researchers with ambitious businesses, it’s places like MIF that will drive the UK forward, boosting the economy and our place on the world stage.”
Vice-Chancellor Professor Tim Jones said: “The MIF is a flagship centre for materials discovery which plays a key role in the UK’s research and innovation capabilities. This visit provided the opportunity to give Sir Keir and Rachel an insight into the MIF’s unique facilities and partnership model, and shine a light on the pioneering work being undertaken at the interface of AI, robotics and chemistry.”
Created in collaboration with Unilever, the MIF is an £81million state of the art facility dedicated to the research and development of advanced materials. It brings together world leading materials chemistry expertise with the latest computational and robotic equipment to accelerate research and reduce the time it takes to develop new products that have the potential to address a range of societal challenges.