The University of Manchester showcases AI and robotics research to the Minister for AI and Intellectual Property

The University of Manchester has welcomed the Minister for AI and Intellectual Property to learn about its cutting-edge research into AI and Robotics and how it is supporting different industries locally and globally.

Viscount Camrose started his tour at Engineering Building A, home to the new international research centre CRADLE (Centre for Robotic Autonomy in Demanding and Long-lasting Environments), where he announced the countdown to the centre’s official opening in November.

The Minister was guided by Professor Barry Lennox, The University of Manchester’s Centre for Robotics and AI Co-Director, where he learnt all about the interdisciplinary research going on in the centre, including a demonstration of a robot named Lyra, built to help transform nuclear infrastructure inspection.

Lyra was used to survey one of the radiologically contaminated ducts in Dounreay. It performed the equivalent of more than 400 air-fed suited entries into the site, equal to 2,250 man-hours. This capability reduced costs by an estimated £5m and it is predicted that similar surveys could save decommissioning costs by a further £500m in the future.

The Minister then took a tour of the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), taking in its energy storage labs, printing lab facilities and construction materials testing facility, before making his way to ID Manchester and the location for the Turing Innovation Catalyst (TIC); a project which aims to link businesses to cutting-edge AI research and technologies to help enhance productivity.

John Holden, Associate Vice-President for Major Special Projects at The University of Manchester, said: “I was delighted to welcome the minister to The University of Manchester and to show him the leading-edge research and development activity we are undertaking in areas critical to the UK’s future economic growth and prosperity, including our pioneering work in AI and robotics.

“Funding research and development in universities is critical to regional and national efforts to improve productivity across all industries, and the visit was an opportunity to highlight to the minister how we are accelerating the translation of our research base into industrial application through initiatives such as GEIC and the Turing Innovation Catalyst.

“The visit was also an opportunity to highlight the major opportunity that ID Manchester represents for the region and UK – our plan to transform eight hectares of the North Campus into a commercially-led innovation district will create a world-leading innovation ecosystem around the University and has the potential to create 10,000 high quality jobs in research and development intensive sectors linked to the University’s capabilities over the next 10-15 years.”

The Minister for AI and Intellectual Property, Viscount Camrose, added: “Greater Manchester has long been at the forefront of science and innovation in this country, from the first splitting of the atom to the invention of the first computer.

“By engaging closely with partners including The University of Manchester, businesses and local government, we can continue to grow our innovation economy across the country and level-up the UK.

“It was great to see first-hand some of the fantastic Government-backed research in Manchester, such as the development of graphene applications at the GEIC, CRADLE’s cutting-edge innovations in robotics, as well as some of the projects underway through our £100m Innovation Accelerators programme such as the Turing Innovation Catalyst, the Centre for Digital Innovation and the Immersive Technologies Innovation Hub.”

The visit ended with a round-table discussion about the Greater Manchester Innovation Accelerator programme. Led by Innovate UK on behalf of the Department for Science, Innovation Technology (DSIT), the pilot programme is investing £100m in 26 transformative R&D projects to accelerate the growth of three high-potential innovation clusters – Greater Manchester, Glasgow City Region and the West Midlands.

Leaders from three AI-related projects backed by the Innovation Accelerator – the Turing Innovation Catalyst, led by The University of Manchester, the Centre for Digital Innovation, led by Manchester Metropolitan University, and the MediaCity Immersive Technologies Innovation Hub, led by The Landing at MediaCityUK – attended the round-table. They were joined by Cllr Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council and Greater Manchester lead for Economy, Business and International, and representatives from Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

Participants discussed how to strengthen connections between these projects and maximise their value, and other national initiatives to support AI and related technologies.

Cllr Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council and GMCA Lead for Economy and Business, said: “Today’s visit provided a fantastic opportunity for the minister to learn more about the groundbreaking research and innovation happening right here in Greater Manchester, and particularly at The University of Manchester.

“In recent years we have grown a reputation as a leading digital city-region, with AI as an important emerging sub-sector. As the impact of AI on our economy and society continues to grow, Greater Manchester is well-placed, with the potential to go even further.

“We also held a productive discussion about Greater Manchester’s Innovation Accelerator programme and its AI-related projects. Through the Innovation Accelerator we are piloting a new model of R&D decision making that empowers local leaders to harness innovation in support of regional economic growth.”

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