EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn has visited the National Graphene Institute at The University of Manchester.
The Commissioner, who approved a £23m investment via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) towards the £61m Institute, was given a guided tour of the construction site by Nobel Laureate Sir Kostya Novoselov.
Set to open in early 2015, the 7,800 square metre building will see academics and commercial partners working side by side to create the graphene applications of the future.
The remaining £38m was provided by the UK Government through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Commissioner Hahn was given an overview of graphene research at the University by Professor Novoselov, as well as information about commercialisation and a progress report on the building. He was also presented with a limited edition picture of graphene signed by Sir Kostya.
He then was given a guided tour of the site by Sir Kostya, including where the main cleanroom will be located on the lower ground floor to achieve best vibration performance. Designed by Jestico+Whiles, the building will also include a second cleanroom; plus laser, optical, metrology and chemical laboratories; a seminar room and offices as well as ancillary accommodation.
BAM Construction started work on the NGI in July last year and it is now week 27 of a 66 week project. The main concrete frame of the five storey building is complete and it is now working on the external envelope and cladding works to the glass-fronted building, the internal blockwork, partition walls and installation of mechanical and electrical services. The fit out of the cleanrooms will begin in mid-April and equipment is due to be moved into the building from the end of this year with completion in 2015.
Also at the event were leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese and Arlene McCarthy MEP, as well as Baroness Stowell.
Commissioner Hahn said: "The Graphene Institute is an excellent example of how EU regional funding in the UK is supporting innovation and taking excellent ideas into the marketplace. We have turned EU regional policy into an investment tool that directly contributes to the creation of growth and jobs.
“Up to now for 2007-2013 the European Regional Development Fund has helped create 19,000 jobs and 6,600 businesses in the North West alone. With a new policy focused on key growth areas like energy efficiency, innovation, the digital agenda and support for small businesses, there are more opportunities for 2014-2020.
“I hope that people and businesses in Manchester will keep up the pace and will continue to show other regions across Europe how these kinds of strategic EU investments can make a difference.”
Sir Kostya added: “Building a state of the art facility requires a little bit more than simply 100% commitment of all the parties involved. We found this extra in the support from the EU Commissioner and ERDF.”
BAM Construction’s project manager, Gordon Flint, said: “We are delighted to be working with the University to create one of the most exciting centres for cutting edge research in the UK that will continue the ground-breaking work being done here in Manchester”.