‘The forefront of engineering’: Manchester says ‘innovative’ university campus will maintain rich heritage

The University of Manchester is confident their new £350 million engineering campus will encourage innovation and pioneering to build on the city’s engineering achievements and heritage.

The Manchester Engineering Campus Development (MECD) will be one of the largest single construction projects undertaken by a UK higher education institution, with the 8.3-acre site to be located between Oxford Road and Upper Brook Street.

The University received planning permission for the development from Manchester City Council on Thursday June 2 and the Director of Operations for the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Rachel Brealey, says the development will build on Manchester’s history to inspire and encourage future generations.

“There is a big heritage angle in terms of the history of engineering and we’ve done quite a lot of work on the project around trying to take the pioneering history and embed it into the building, things that we hope will encourage innovation and pioneering of the future.

“Engineering is a fundamental part of who we are in terms of the University and it has a big economic impact on the city and on the UK industry, so it’s very important for us to have good facilities and opportunities for such future growth.”

Manchester is known for being the birthplace of the industrial revolution and the city’s Technical School created the discipline of ‘Chemical Engineering’ in 1887.

The world’s first stored program computer was designed and built in Manchester and, after studying in the city, John Douglas Cockcroft was awarded the 1951 Nobel Prize in Physics for creating the first proton accelerator.

More recently, two scientists from the University discovered graphene, the world’s first 2D material which is 200 times stronger than steel, also earning them the Nobel Prize in Physics.

The city has been named 2016’s European City of Science and is set to host this year’s EuroScience Open Forum in July, which will bring scientists from across Europe to the city to discuss the latest discoveries and advancements.

A spokesperson from the University said: “For centuries, we have led the way with outstanding ideas, discoveries and knowledge.

“We are exceptionally proud of our heritage; it’s what has put us at the forefront of engineering today.

“The Manchester Engineering Campus will reflect pride in our rich academic and civic heritage, whilst showcasing our on-going advancement in research and education.”

Ms Brealey claimed that development will allow the University to future-proof its facilities, to cater to their needs and how they are aiming to work in the future.

She said: “I think Manchester, as the University and a place, is quite a practical place and so that desire to innovate and make things happen is there –it seems to inherently be part of what we are.

“But I think our heritage encourages people to see Manchester as having opportunities to do things.”

The new campus will bring together the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science, the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, the School of Materials and the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering.

Demolition on the site is currently underway with the main construction works scheduled to begin later this year and the work expected to be completed in 2020.

The development is part of the University’s £1 billion master plan and will have specially designed ‘maker spaces’ for students to test their ideas.

Ms Brealey said: “The spaces are for students, in particular, to come and have a go and try and invent things, to work together and collaborate.

“That is something our students have said to us they would really like to be able to achieve, but we don’t have many spaces that they can access to do that now.

“The spaces can be used much more practically, they are more ‘dirty spaces’, less pressure spaces, where engineers can really do hands on work and try and fail, because that’s where innovation tends to come from.

“It comes from an idea and it doesn’t always work right first time, but if you keep going and try again generally it becomes good.

“We’re trying very much to build that into the lab environment so our students can have a chance to play a bit more with an idea and actually take it forward.”

Ms Brealey also says that the building will be open to the public, allowing people to come and have a coffee while looking at engineering work taking place inside the building, almost like visiting an art gallery on a lunch break.

A spokesperson from the University said: “As the new engineering campus is built for the future, elements of the architecture will be infused with references to the pioneering engineering which has taken place at Manchester.

“Here, ground-breaking engineering and applied science will continue to develop in the footsteps of the University’s pioneering engineering heritage.

“The new engineering campus will be an iconic destination, a Manchester landmark, a place to celebrate engineering in the world’s first modern city and welcome the community.”

With over 15,500 m2 of highly adaptable laboratory space, users will be able to meet future research needs and play their part in solving the world’s biggest problems.

The new engineering campus boasts over 6,500 m2 of innovative teaching and learning environments, allowing students to create and collaborate.

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