Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science and brother of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, was on campus today to open Sussex University’s £11-million Future Technology Labs on the same day the government released its Industrial Strategy White Paper.

The labs will aim to inform students about robotics and technology including smart technologies and 5G. Johnson spoke to students and staff about the technologies and commented on the University’s efforts to attract more STEM students from under-represented groups i.e. those from lower-income backgrounds, BAME students and female students.

Johnson said: “This new world-class facility will support students to become leaders in robotics and cutting-edge technologies that will be vital for the workplace of the future.”

Adam Tickell, Sussex’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “This cements the University of Sussex’s place as a regional economic powerhouse and highlights the vital role we can play in delivering the government’s industrial strategy by equipping the next generation with the skills and capabilities that businesses need to enhance productivity.” Tickell also tweeted about the event. 

The facility is part of the School of Engineering and Informatics and was funded by Sussex and the government.

Johnson’s visit was announced as it was occurring, prompting allegations by some students that the visit was kept a secret to avoid protest or criticism of Johnson. In response to The Badger’s inquiry as to whether the visit was kept from students, akin to allegations surrounding Jeremy Corbyn’s visit earlier in the term, a university spokesperson said:

“Students and staff in the School of Engineering and Informatics were part of the short visit on Monday to campus by the Universities and Science Minister. During his visit to open the Future Technologies Labs, Jo Johnson MP spoke with students in Engineering and Informatics about some of the cutting-edge technologies being designed and developed at the new lab. We were really pleased that the Minister chose Sussex to launch part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

“Short tours for MPs, who have a very brief window to visit the University, are usually requested just a few days in advance – and, with a lot for us to showcase in a short amount of time, the number of people involved in the tour needs to be relatively small.”

Image from Sussex University.

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