Shadow Universities Minister learns how Nottingham is leading the change for a greener tomorrow

Friday, 19 November 2021

Exciting new technologies that will shape the economy and drive sustainability on a regional, national and global scale have been showcased by The University of Nottingham during a visit by the Shadow Universities Minister.

Matt Western MP spent the morning of Thursday 18 November speaking to students and researchers on University Park and Jubilee campuses, before heading into the city centre for a tour of the new Green Light in the City sustainability pop up shop.

During his fact finding visit to the city, the Labour MP for Warwick and Leamington met Steve Benford, Professor of Computer Science, and Robin the Robot at the university’s brand new Cobot Maker Space. The facility provides a dedicated space for research and industry collaboration into new innovations in robots and artificial intelligence (AI), and enhancing human-robot interaction in a range of real life scenarios - from business and manufacturing to home life with social and rehabilitation robots.

Shadow Universities Minister Matt Western MP meets Robin the Robot at the Cobot Makers Space.

And he heard how University of Nottingham academic research and technical expertise are also at the forefront of the LEADD:NG Project, which is delivering a programme of innovation to support the local creative and cultural industries which were severely impacted by the restrictions imposed in response to the Covid 19 pandemic.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Jeremy Gregory underlined the importance of academic innovation and expertise in the university’s civic engagement through initiatives such as Universities for Nottingham. The pioneering collaboration brings together the combined strength of Nottingham’s two world-class universities to improve the way they work - with each other and local partners - to help change the lives of local people for the better.

We were absolutely delighted to welcome the Shadow Minister to our campuses in Nottingham. The visit was a golden opportunity to offer him a snapshot of some of our world-leading research and our ambitions for the future and to have fruitful conversations about the University's valuable contribution to the region's civic and economic priorities.
Professor Jeremy Gregory, Pro-Vice-Chancellor
Matt Western MP discussed the future of human-robot interaction with Professor Steve Benford.

As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Electric Vehicles and Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change, Mr Western MP was keen to learn about how the university is driving change that will reduce carbon emissions and support the move towards a greener planet.

Professor Chris Gerada, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Industrial Strategy, Business Engagement and Impact, who headed up the university’s delegation to COP26, led a tour of the Power Electronics and Machines Centre (PEMC), the purpose built new home for the Propulsion Futures research group, which is set to open formally in the new year and will sit at the heart of the university’s priority research into net zero aviation.

Nottingham is Europe’s leading research university in aviation – its Institute for Aerospace Technology alone brings together more than 350 scientists and engineers, creating, testing and demonstrating novel technologies in sector-leading facilities.

Professor Chris Gerada demonstrates cutting edge technology used in the university's aviation research.

The new PEMC features an unrivalled 20 megawatt demonstration capacity, giving its £40m UK Electrification of Aerospace Propulsion Facility a world-leading capability for testing electric components and drive systems for short-medium range aircraft.

By March 2024, the university estimates that £140m worth of industrial work will align with the aerospace propulsion facility, strengthening the world’s largest regional aviation supply-chain cluster and associated high-skilled jobs, and reinforcing the UK’s and the East Midlands’ reputation as the go-to place for the development of electrification technologies for future aerospace platforms.

Matt Western MP discusses the University's sustainability activity with Professor Mark Gillott

The environmental theme was continued with the visit to Green Light in the City, the new Nottingham partnership to develop ‘pop-up’ spaces in empty retail premises which will provide a focus for creativity and engagement with key local issues. The partnership consists of a range of local creative, cultural and sustainability organisations as well as both universities and Nottingham City Council.

The project aims to raise awareness, promotion, and engagement with green issues and how they affect everyone individually and locally; to encourage community and creative partnerships to get involved; and create opportunities for workshops, events, and talks. To coincide with COP26, the United Nations’ key Climate Change Conference held in Glasgow earlier this month, the first pop-up is focusing on climate change during November and December, with an emphasis on green issues, sustainability and helping Nottingham achieve its ambition to be carbon neutral by 2028.

The visit also offered the chance to learn more about the university’s ambitious vision for net zero aviation through an exhibition on display at the shop and to chat with Mark Gillott, Professor of Sustainable Building Design, part of the university’s COP26 delegation. He outlined researchers’ involvement in the low-energy housing project Trent Basin, which is helping to regenerate the city on the banks of the River Trent, and the role that retro-fitting green technologies will play in helping to make existing housing stocks more sustainable for the future.

Our universities have a critical role to play in supporting the post-Covid recovery of communities up and down the country.
Matt Western, Shadow Minister for Universities

He added: "It was tremendously exciting to see first-hand the inspirational work taking place in Nottingham - from the success of the Universities for Nottingham initiative that is forging stronger civic partnerships to technologies of the future like Robin the robot and his friends at the Cobot Maker Space.

"It is these exciting developments that the government’s decision to push back the date for Research & Development funding to be restored to 2.4% of GDP to 2027 puts at risk.

“I was also lucky enough to be shown around a pioneering new project in the city centre, called ‘Green Light in the City,’ showing how universities can reach out and build relationships with the communities they serve.

“Research, development and civic engagement are vital for embedding universities in their communities."

Emma Thorne - Head of News
Phone: 0115 748 4734

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Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. Ranked 103rd out of more than 1,000 institutions globally and 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2022, the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its crowning as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 Sports University of the Year. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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