Liverpool Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram undertook a digital tour at the University of Liverpool on Wednesday 6th September 2017. Steve not only met with Prof Ken Badcock, Lynn Dwyer and Dr Andy Levers of the Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) but also Iain Hennessey of AlderHey Children’s Hospital, Lisa Ahmed from Business Gateway and Ian Briggs and Neill Briggs from BAC Limited.

Prof Ken Badcock kicked off talks, introducing the University of Liverpool as a key academic source for Liverpool through the digital revolution. As 4IR technologies are forever growing in popularity across businesses and industry, it is ideal for Universities to deliver research and support to enhance the understanding and access of these, especially for SMEs.

The University of Liverpool is the lead partner for LCR 4.0, an innovative ERDF-part funded project which is to bring together world-class, practical support to transform Liverpool City Region businesses in the manufacturing space through digital innovation. The VEC and Sensor City are both involved within the LCR 4.0 Project and are great strengths for Liverpool, offering specialist knowledge and home to world class support, technology and facilities.

Lynn Dwyer of the VEC explained how the VEC was originally set up over 8 years ago as an ERDF funded project, supporting SMEs who were interested in aerospace. Since then, the multi-disciplinary team aim to improve the strength of businesses and their supply chain from a range of industries including automotive, aerospace and now healthcare and energy. Working together to follow innovative ideas the VEC has worked with some fantastically popular companies and names over a variety of projects as well as enhancing innovation for a range of SMEs!

Steve Rotheram went onto explain that whilst Robotics are exciting to everyone, he understands there is a skills gap as well as a gender gap within industries such as manufacturing, science and technology.

Lynn Dwyer suggested one way to address the skills gap is to make sure teachers are aware that such technology exists as and it is vital to introduce this to young children which can then help them choose the best courses in future to gain the skills needed for career choices.

The University of Liverpool proudly offer tours, placements, summer schools as well as virtual reality themed programmes which are based at the University of Liverpool in London. The University Outreach programme also allows for students all across Europe to complete programmes and even Masters Programmes electronically.

Steve Rotherham expressed the need to break down certain barriers and explained how it is great to see the fantastic work of organisations such as Liverpool Girl Geeks, watching the great work they do to raise awareness of the opportunities for all which are out there and to eliminate stereotypes.

Steve has ambitious plans for the future for Liverpool City Region and is excited to see what tangible benefits these opportunities can bring.

Iain Hennessey from AlderHey Children’s Hospital introduced the virtual heart demonstration which was created in collaboration with the VEC, using MRI scan data to create a simulation which can be blown up to 8 feet, allowing for surgeons to explore organs prior to operation, de-risking surgery on young children.

The second demonstration allowed for Ian and Neill Briggs of BAC limited to discuss their collaborative work with the VEC, showing the virtual simulation created for the design of their BAC Mono. This simulation allows for BAC to not only market their product without having to travel to remote locations but it also great for showcasing for the likes of the gaming industry, something BAC is very popular within. The technology has allowed for BAC to shorten their design time and ultimately create the physical product in quicker time.

Steve Rotheram was then treated to sitting in the very latest BAC Mono, climbing into the slick sports car which had recently travelled across Europe, thanks to driver, Ian Briggs.