World-class robotics lab opens its doors

Vice chancellor Adam Tickell alongside Jo Johnson

World-class robotics lab opens its doors

Universities and science minister Jo Johnson visited the University of Sussex earlier this week to open the university’s new £11m Future Technologies Labs.

The new £11m facility at the University of Sussex will teach future workers about robotics and other rapidly developing technologies.

The state-of-the-art facilities will enable students to become the workforce of the future, with the skills to boost productivity in critical industries for the UK, such as aerospace, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, food and agriculture. 

During his visit, Johnson spoke with students and staff about some of the cutting-edge technologies being designed and developed at the new lab and the university’s emphasis in attracting female students and other under-represented groups, such as those from minority ethnic or disadvantaged backgrounds.

Johnson said: “This new world-class facility will support students to become leaders in robotics and cutting-edge technologies that will be vital for the workplace of the future.

“Opening on the day we launch our new Industrial Strategy, it is a perfect example of our strategy in action and how we are working with universities and industry across the UK to help the next generation develop the skills to succeed to ensure the UK remains a hub of innovation.”

Adam Tickell, vice chancellor of the university, added: “This cements the University of Sussex’s place as a regional economic powerhouse and highlights the vital role we can play in delivering the government’s industrial strategy by equipping the next generation with the skills and capabilities that businesses need to enhance productivity.  

“Our new masters degrees announced today offer industrial placements and we are committed to matching the needs of industry with the education we provide.

“Technologies such as drones, robotics, AI and 5G are transforming virtually every aspect of modern life, from how we survey large structures to new methods of remote and minimally invasive surgery.

“This is an exciting and timely investment in upskilling our young generation, giving them practical expertise in the technologies that are critical now and in the future.”

The investment in the university’s school of engineering and informatics has been jointly-funded by the university and the government, via the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

Robotics has been identified by the government as one of the UK’s ‘eight great technologies’ and a critical piece in plugging the nation’s engineering skills gap.

According to Engineering UK, the UK’s annual shortfall of high-skilled workers has increased by 25% to 69,000. 

Tickell continued: “The fast-changing world of work and society at large means we all need to invest for the future - this new £11m facility does just that by investing in our students who will be the industrial designers, coders and innovators of tomorrow.

“The demand for expertise in these areas, and how to exploit their potential, far outstrips supply, offering our students an exciting and rewarding future in a wide range of established and rapidly developing industries.

“Sussex academics are doing some truly boundary-pushing research in sensor design, wearable technology and autonomous vehicles - this is all about ensuring that we have the very best facilities to make sure our students can fully benefit from that expertise.”