The Duke of York officially opened Sheffield University’s £42m Factory2050 and declared it a “very important part of the UK’s industrial landscape.”
Prince Andrew was given a tour of the giant, glass walled, circular building before a speech and unveiling ceremony in front of guests.
Factory2050 is the latest building in the university’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre group and is set to undertake research for its 100 industrial partners. It has been designed so equipment can be quickly rearranged to tackle different projects.
The Duke said: “The AMRC is a very, very important part of the UK’s industrial landscape. It has developed over the last 15 to 20 years and is now at the forefront in a whole range of areas including robotics, automation and how people integrate with those processes.
“It is a great pleasure to open this building.”
He then pressed a button which moved a robot arm which unveiled a plaque.
Earlier, guests heard the building was designed by AMRC executive dean Keith Ridgway based on what manufacturing would be like in the year 2050.
The AMRC’s research facilities were a key part in Boeing and McLaren announcing plans to open factories in the area.
He said: “The Duke of York is very supportive, I think he has opened every building here.
“This is part way through a long journey to change the perception of Sheffield.
“Boeing and McLaren are a big step and I hope they will bring a supply chain which is more valuable in terms of jobs. And if McLaren build more and more of their car here, then why not build the car here?”
The AMRC now comprises eight buildings based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham and the old Sheffield City Airport on the other side of the Parkway.
Three research buildings are under construction next to Factory2050 including the Integrated Civil and Infrastructure Research Building, the Laboratory of Validation and Verification and the Sir Henry Royce Institute.
A 1000kg titanium press building was finished earlier this year and funding has been agreed for a Lightweighting Centre. All were supported by the European Regional Development Fund and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Prof Shearer West, Sheffield University deputy vice-chancellor, thanked both organisations for their “extensive contribution.”
She added: “The AMRC is a site for the fourth industrial revolution and a pillar of the national industrial strategy.”
Boeing plans to build its first factory in Europe near Factory2050, in a £20m investment. McLaren is spending £50m on a factory making carbon fibre chassis for its supercars. It has plans to build 5,000 cars a year by 2020.