UCL News


Sir Keir Starmer makes key ‘national renewal’ speech at UCL

5 January 2023

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer chose UCL to deliver his first major speech of 2023, as he set out how he hoped to build the UK economy and said our “universities, young people and researchers” provide him with optimism for the future.

Labour Leader and Shadow Chancellor visit UCL

Sir Keir and Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves were greeted by UCL President & Provost, Dr Michael Spence, Professor Paola Lettieri, Pro-Provost UCL East, and Kirsty Walker, Vice-President External Engagement, at our cutting-edge research, engineering and robotics facility, based at UCL Here East, on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, East London.

In his speech, Sir Keir emphasised the importance of higher education, research and technology to economic growth.

“It’s our universities, our young people, the researchers in this room and those like it,” he said.

“Our manufacturing genius, our superpower services, our start-ups and innovators.

“The green entrepreneurs, the builders and retrofitters, insulators and engineers, who will bring us energy independence and cheaper bills. The scientists making healthcare more responsive - saving more lives.”

As part of the day, Professor Peter Scully, Technical Director for The Bartlett Manufacturing and Design Exchange (B-made), gave the party a tour of the multi-functional building.

“Our aim was to highlight how UCL is bridging the gap between existing technologies and next generation manufacturing, design, and applied technology to create new forms of research," he said.

“Through our wide range of interdisciplinary expertise we demonstrated how new aerospace technologies could assist UK manufacturing, how 3-D technology is transforming all forms of industry and how we hope to deliver a more sustainable construction industry through new UCL developed biodegradable products.”

Claudia Toma, a UCL technician (B-made at Here East), demonstrated how scientists use 3-D scanners to create new forms.

She said: “Sir Keir and Rachel were very interested, they were asking lots of questions, and wanted to know what we were doing. I was very proud to show-off our inter-disciplinary programme, the work of our students and some of our ambitious projects that will hopefully bring meaningful change.”

Associate Professor, Dr Brenda Parker (UCL Biochemical Engineering) delivered a talk in a Bio-ID (Bio-Integrated Design) lab and explained how UCL is developing new materials that may help the UK achieve Net Zero.

“I showed them a new highly sustainable bio-mineralised material - developed entirely at UCL - which could be used in the construction industry.

“We talked about the importance of bio-technology and embedding biology into the fabric of the built environment, as part of a circular economy. Through this we could help achieve net zero.”

Professor Stuart Robson (UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering) and RAEng/Airbus/UCL Chair in Large Volume Metrology, highlighted the role of metrology in the digitalization of manufacture to ensure quality, enhance productivity, and support the manufacture of next generation zero-emission aircraft.

"Our UCL Here East facility allows us to develop and validate new technologies in a factory like environment. We demonstrated a 6D hand tool tracking capability based on networks of low-cost cameras which will allow sub-mm spatial positioning of tools in large-scale manufacturing environments. Keir was able to guide one of the tools as it was tracked from location to location on an Airbus A320 wing section."

Reflecting on the visit, UCL President & Provost, Dr Michael Spence, said: “We were delighted to host Sir Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves and show them the incredible research and innovation taking place at UCL.

“Our tour of UCL’s cutting edge manufacturing and design facility at Here East, was a great opportunity to demonstrate how UCL scientists are using next generation technologies such as robotics, biochemical engineering and Artificial Intelligence, to answer some of the UK’s biggest challenges.”

The UCL Here East facility, along with the opening of One Pool Street at UCL East also marks the beginning of a new chapter in UCL’s nearly 200-year history, as our globally renowned and world top 10 university opens up an entire new campus on the Olympic Park with two sites next to the London Stadium and London Aquatics Centre. This will strengthen UCL's collaboration with local communities and businesses in East London.

Once complete, the campus will draw 4,000 students and 700 staff into East London, contributing to the social and intellectual life of the area, increasing UCL’s already significant £9.9bn annual contribution to the UK economy, £2bn to London’s and supporting 11,640 local jobs.

In partnership with regional leaders and innovators, UCL will convene expertise and insights across fields as diverse as assistive technology, ecology, robotics, heritage, engineering and global health, bringing UCLs hallmark approach to cross disciplinary working to tackle global challenges.



  • left to right: Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chancellor, Sir Keir Starmer, Labour Leader, Dr Michael Spence, UCL President & Provost, and Claudia Toma, UCL Technician. 

Media contact 

Henry Killworth 

Tel: +44 (0) 7881833274

E: h.killworth [at] ucl.ac.uk