UK Research and Innovation CEO opens new Henry Royce Institute

8 September 2021
Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, CEO, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has officially opened the £105m Henry Royce Institute, the UK’s national institute for advanced materials research. Operating with its Hub at The University of Manchester, the Institute is a Partnership of nine leading institutions.
Henry Royce Institute

Henry Royce Institute

Simona Peet. Ramboll

Simona Peet

Project Director
T: +44 7587 659 716
Martin Bissell. Ramboll

Martin Bissell

T: +44 7918 693 765

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor at The University of Manchester and Dame Julia King, the Baroness Brown of Cambridge and Chair of the Henry Royce Institute, welcomed guests to Royce’s flagship building at the university and set out the capabilities of the new UK centre for materials research and meeting place for the advanced materials community.

The building hosts £45 million of new state‐of‐the‐art equipment alongside existing facilities in Manchester for biomedical materials, metals processing, digital fabrication, and sustainable materials research, including the new Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub  part‐funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Alongside this is a variety of collaboration spaces for industry engagement, helping to accelerate the development and commercialisation of advanced materials.

About the design team

The Royce Hub Building, under the Project and Cost Management of Arcadis (who contracted as Project Managers and Full Design Team), was designed by international architectural practice NBBJ, alongside civil and structural engineers Ramboll and building services engineers Arup. Ramboll also provided client-side Mechanical, Electrical and Public Health support for the final stages of the main build, as well as the complex fit-out of the laboratories. Equipment hook up and some laboratory and office fit-out was undertaken by Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick. The building was delivered by Laing O’Rourke, the appointed University of Manchester contractor.

About the design

The design of the hub building for the national Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials was driven by a vision to engage scientists, industry and the public by showcasing the Institute’s work and providing a flexible environment for world‐class research. The design supports the Institute’s goal of accelerating the invention of new materials systems that will meet global challenges, enhance industrial competitiveness, and shape more sustainable societies. Located on campus at The University of Manchester, the ‘science on show’ approach includes laboratories revealing their complex workings to those on the outside, alongside spaces for visitor engagement and imaginative displays of research material and products.

The continual evolution of research themes demanded a strategy that provides inherent flexibility and adaptability in building design and layout, enabling the users to adapt to new research and technological opportunities during the building’s lifetime. Across the seven floors, there are dedicated specialist spaces as well as fully flexible write up spaces providing a flex zone which is ready to be turned into further laboratories, reacting to the changing needs of the materials research community.

Vertical connections and shared spaces create opportunities for researchers and industry partners to mix across teams, to generate new relationships and encounters with the aim of cross‐fertilising research.   

The 10 metre high ground floor entrance is overlooked by a café at mezzanine level and offers views into the material testing spaces. Terraced floors provide visitors with glimpses into workspaces as they climb the staircase through a stepped, three‐storey atrium. These atria house local collaboration hubs with lounge seating and views out across The University of Manchester’s campus and city beyond.  There is an efficient plan of offices which transition via the adaptable ‘flex zone’ into more private and technical and specialist laboratory spaces.

With the facades, solar gain was carefully balanced against the building’s spatial functionality. In response to orientation and internal needs computational ‘rules’ optimise greater visual transparency to more ‘open’ functions such as local collaboration hubs, and lesser transparency to controlled laboratory environments, creating a dynamic and modulated building appearance. Researchers and industry partners are linked through a careful arrangement of vertical connections and shared spaces, which additionally offer views into public areas and laboratories for visitors and passers‐by. 

Tight site constraints and the wide range of space typologies led to an offsite precast concrete design. The solution delivers mass and strength to the building’s structure, necessary to accommodate the heavy scientific equipment and deliver the ultra‐low vibration requirements. The approach also sped up construction, increased quality and minimised waste and site deliveries.   

Combining Ramboll’s expertise in offsite construction and advanced digital engineering, alongside close collaboration with Laing O’Rourke, the University, Arcadis, NBBJ and Arup, the full benefits of offsite construction were realised. Using advanced digital design tools, the MEP, architectural design and structural arrangement were fully coordinated to deliver a consistent MEP servicing strategy with allocated spaces for risers set out in all floor slabs, demonstrating how vital the integration of MEP strategies, thoughtful consideration of architectural aspirations and planning for future adaptability are in the early design stages.

The main structural frame consists of hybrid precast and cast‐in‐situ for the upper floors, “twin walls” for the structural stability walls and precast columns. The precast elements were standardised in size wherever possible, reducing manufacturing and installation time and cost. ‘Just in time’ site deliveries were accurately scheduled for programme assurance and improvement of the overall site environment with less personnel required on‐site, waste improving health and safety risks relative to more traditional construction; and a reduction in site traffic vital for a project located in the heart of Manchester.

Simona Peet, Project Director at Ramboll, said: “From an optimised offsite construction solution that delivers on the building’s extremely low vibration requirements to an embodied carbon assessment of the structure that will help inform future developments, the entire project team has delivered an exemplar building that will benefit both science and industry.”  

Ingo Braun, Design Director at NBBJ London, said: “Working with such a trend setting institution on this major new project was an inspiring process and gave us the opportunity to build on NBBJ’s expertise in the design of collaborative, highly adaptable workplaces alongside our deep knowledge of the complex requirements of laboratories. The building continues to push Manchester forward as a global leader for advanced materials research; NBBJ was delighted to be involved in this process and looks forward to seeing how this flexible and engaging building will be part of the journey towards reducing time from materials discovery to application.”

Mel Manku, Partner at Arcadis, said: “As a flagship project in the Government’s Northern Powerhouse agenda and National Hub, this building helps cement Manchester and the UK as a world leader in advanced materials research as well as bringing new jobs and skills to the city and boosting the local economy. This is the latest in a long line of projects Arcadis has successfully delivered with The University of Manchester, building on a truly collaborative relationship developed over the past decade. It also recognises our established position in the higher education, science and research sector as a consultant of choice that understands the requirements for research facilities and how to overcome inevitable challenges to deliver value, working with our supply chain partners. We look forward to continuing our work with the University over the coming years having been appointed to their consultant framework.”


External view of Henry Royce Institute

Henry Royce Institute

Based at the heart of the University of Manchester’s campus, the Henry Royce Institute for Materials Science Research and Innovation brings together world-leading academics from across the UK to work closely with industry to ensure commercialisation of fundamental research. 

Quadram Institute © Nick Guttridge

Quadram Institute

Creating new interfaces between food science, gut biology, human health and disease, the Quadram Institute brings together the Institute for Food Research (IFR), Norwich and Norfolk University Hospitals (NNUH) gastroenterology team, and researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) Faculty of Science into one building, facilitating world class translational research and clinical care.

Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre © University of Manchester

Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre

The Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) will accelerate the commercial impact of graphene and help realise its potential to revolutionise countless industries.

Ramboll - The National Graphene Institute

National Graphene Institute, University of Manchester

State-of-the-art facility, dedicated to the study, research and development of graphene and its applications. Critical to the success of the project were the clean rooms (ISO standard 5 and 6 ) and laboratories that accommodate sophisticated research equipment, which have both extremely low-vibration and non-magnetic requirements, made extraordinarily challenging with the extreme intensity of services equipment.

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