£96m ‘superlabs’ plan at University of Leeds - part of £520m masterplan - is approved

An artist's illustration of the planned new �96m science hub
An artist's illustration of the planned new �96m science hub
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Proposals for a brand new £96m science and engineering hub at the University of Leeds - which will include a series of “superlabs” housing world-leading research - have been approved by plans chiefs.

The complex will form part of a wider redevelopment masterplan worth £520m, and will be the base for 2,000 students and staff.

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The project, which includes a modern extension to the existing Old Mining Building on Woodhouse Lane, is expected to be completed by the summer of 2020.

University bosses say it will provide “an exceptional environment” for students and researchers from across the engineering and physical sciences, and will enhance the University’s reputation nationally and internationally as a centre of excellence.

And they say the 5,700-metres squared building is the largest, single-project investment ever to have been made on the University campus.

The development will relocate the School of Computing and School of Physics and Astronomy, bringing them together with the Chemistry and Engineering departments for the first time.

It will also include the new Bragg Research Centre, re-housing the University’s already renowned work with materials characterization and analysis of soft matter and nanostructured thin films.

It is named after Sir William Henry Bragg, the early 20th century mathematician and physicist who developed X-Ray crystallography at Leeds.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915 for his work together with his son Sir William Lawrence Bragg.

Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, said the aim was to “support and attract the best minds at all levels, placing our exceptional standard of research on a global scale”.

“The Bragg Centre will be a fabulous environment for cross-disciplinary teams to work on big technical challenges, drawing on our existing strengths”, she said, adding that will also “transform how we can work with our industry partners on real world problems”.

The University hopes the “superlabs” concept behind the development will bring together its existing strengths in applied and fundamental research, and will help tackle challenges facing the private sector and industry.

Professor Steve Scott, Dean of the Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences, said: “We are creating an exceptional environment to carry out cutting-edge research; the interplay between people, working culture, equipment and buildings will be central to creating the highest quality findings and original ideas.

T”his £96m is an investment in the city’s future too, along with our new innovation centre – Nexus - which will offer a gateway to help businesses access the University’s expertise and support.

“We want to attract world-leading researchers and the best students to come and live and work in the city, encourage high-tech growth, and boost Leeds’ reputation for enterprise, creativity and innovation.”

The £96m complex is fully funded by the University of Leeds and will bring together existing scientific hardware from the schools involved.

In addition, a “significant” funding bid is being put together for Research Councils money to bring in the very latest equipment in a range of fields including energy efficient computing, telecommunications, sustainable magnetic materials, sensors for use in biological systems and extreme or remote environments, pharmaceutical formulations, ‘smart foods’ and medical technologies.

Professor Scott added: “In total, across all of its projects, the University is investing £520m as part of its campus development plans to secure Leeds’ position in the UK’s top 10 research universities. Examples include Nexus, our innovation centre, and The Brownlee Centre and Cycle Circuit.”

Leeds Council’s City Plans Panel approved the project earlier today (Thursday), subject to the signing of agreements.

Councillor Neil Walshaw, who sits on the panel, said there was unanimous approval for the “five-star” application and its “very strong” design, and the final complex would be a “fantastic” teaching and research facility.

Paula Dillon, President of Leeds Chamber Commerce.

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