UK government announces £100 million investment to develop new multi-disciplinary science and technology research centre

Harwell Campus

SWINDON, 27-Feb-2017 — /EuropaWire/ — A major new £100 million investment by the government into the development of an innovative multi-disciplinary science and technology research centre was announced today (Thursday 23 February 2017) by Business Secretary Greg Clark.

The new Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI) – named in honour of the pioneering British scientist whose use of X-rays to study biological structures played a crucial role in the discovery of DNA‘s ‘double helix’ structure by Francis Crick and James Watson – will bring together UK strengths in the physical sciences, engineering and life sciences to create a national centre of excellence in technology development and innovation.

  • The new Rosalind Franklin Institute will have a hub based at the Harwell campus
  • It will bring together UK expertise to develop new technologies that will transform our understanding of disease and speed up the development of new treatments
  • Part of the government’s Industrial Strategy to maintain the UK’s global leadership in science, innovation and research

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: The UK has always been a pioneer in the world of science, technology and medical research. It’s this excellence we want to continue to build on and why we made science and research a central part of our Industrial Strategy – strengthening links between research and industry, ensuring more home-grown innovation continues to benefit millions around the world.

Named after one of the UK’s leading chemists, the new Rosalind Franklin Institute will inspire and house scientists who could be responsible for the next great discovery that will maintain the UK’s position at the forefront of global science for years to come.

Delivered and managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the RFI will bring together academic and industry researchers from across the UK to develop disruptive new technologies designed to tackle major challenges in health and life sciences, accelerate the discovery of new treatments for chronic diseases affecting millions of people around the world (such as dementia), and deliver new jobs and long-term growth to the local and UK economies.

Chair of the Research Councils and EPSRC Chief Executive, Professor Philip Nelson said: The UK is currently in a world leading position when it comes to developing new medical treatments and technologies in the life sciences. However, other countries are alive to the potential and are already investing heavily. The Rosalind Franklin Institute will help secure the country as one of the best places in the world to research, discover, and innovate.

The central hub at Harwell will link to partner sites at the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester and Oxford, Imperial College, King’s College London, and University College London. Industry partners will be on board from the outset, and the Institute will grow over time, as more universities and researchers participate.

The work at new Institute will contribute directly to the delivery of EPSRC‘s ‘Healthy Nation’ prosperity outcome, its Healthcare Technologies programme, and to the Technology Touching Life initiative that spans three research councils (the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and EPSRC) and seeks to foster interdisciplinary technology development research across the engineering, physical and life sciences.

The development of the RFI has been led by Professor Ian Walmsley, FRS, from the University of Oxford, who said: This is a new joint venture between some of the UK’s leading universities and key partners in industry and research councils. The aim is to speed the application of cutting-edge physical science insights, methods and techniques to health and life sciences by providing an interface between research programmes at the forefront of these areas, co-located at Harwell and connected, dynamically, to the wider UK research base.

We anticipate innovative new businesses will grow from this effort over time, as the Institute will engage with a range of key industries from inception. A collaborative joint venture model allows the RFI to make the most of interactions and draw on a wide range of existing research excellence from across the UK.

Patrick Vallance, President of R&D at GSK said: We welcome the creation of the RFI which will bring world-leading, multi-disciplinary teams from industry and academia closer together, and will further strengthen the UK as a place to translate excellent science into patient benefit. Through collaboration we will be able to make advances in life science technologies much quicker than we could manage alone.

Research at the RFI will initially be centred on five selected technology themes, focusing on next-generation imaging technologies – X-ray science, correlated imaging (combining X-ray, electron and light microscopy), imaging by sound and light, and biological mass spectrometry – and on new chemical methods and strategies for drug discovery.

Dame Carol Robinson, FRS, who is leading the RFI‘s biological mass spectrometry theme, and received the 2004 Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award that recognises outstanding scientific contributions and supports the promotion of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, said: It is fitting that this new Institute bears Rosalind Franklin’s name. She achieved so much in a relatively short life and without her work many of the advances that have taken place since would not have come about. Work in the Institute will include development of the next-generation of physical tools including mass spectrometry, instruments for X-ray science and for advanced microscopy – fields directly descended from her research interests.

Notes for Editors:

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

As the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research, our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to Research, Discover and Innovate.

By investing £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture.

We work collectively with our partners and other Research Councils on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

STFC is keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and tackling some of the most significant challenges facing society such as meeting our future energy needs, monitoring and understanding climate change, and global security. The Council has a broad science portfolio and works with the academic and industrial communities to share its expertise in materials science, space and ground-based astronomy technologies, laser science, microelectronics, wafer scale manufacturing, particle and nuclear physics, alternative energy production, radio communications and radar.

STFC operates or hosts world class experimental facilities including in the UK the ISIS pulsed neutron source, the Central Laser Facility, and LOFAR, and is also the majority shareholder in Diamond Light Source Ltd.

It enables UK researchers to access leading international science facilities by funding membership of international bodies including European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

STFC is one of seven publicly-funded research councils. It is an independent, non-departmental public body of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, BBSRC invested £473M in world-class bioscience, people and research infrastructure in 2015-16. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes.

The Medical Research Council (MRC)

The Medical Research Council is at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health. Thirty-one MRC-funded researchers have won Nobel prizes in a wide range of disciplines, and MRC scientists have been behind such diverse discoveries as vitamins, the structure of DNA and the link between smoking and cancer, as well as achievements such as pioneering the use of randomised controlled trials, the invention of MRI scanning, and the development of a group of antibodies used in the making of some of the most successful drugs ever developed. Today, MRC-funded scientists tackle some of the greatest health problems facing humanity in the 21st century, from the rising tide of chronic diseases associated with ageing to the threats posed by rapidly mutating micro-organisms.

Diamond Light Source

Diamond Light Source is the UK’s synchrotron science facility, and is approximately the size of Wembley Stadium. It works like a giant microscope, harnessing the power of electrons to produce bright light that scientists can use to study anything from fossils to jet engines to viruses and vaccines.

Diamond is used by thousands of academic and industrial researchers across a wide range of disciplines, including structural biology, health and medicine, solid-state physics, materials & magnetism, nanoscience, electronics, earth & environmental sciences, chemistry, cultural heritage, energy and engineering. Many everyday commodities that we take for granted, from food manufacturing to consumer products, from revolutionary drugs to surgical tools, from computers to mobile phones, have all been developed or improved using synchrotron light. Diamond generates extremely intense pin-point beams of synchrotron light. These are of exceptional quality, and range from X-rays to ultraviolet to infrared. Diamond’s X-rays are around 10 billion times brighter than the sun.

Diamond is one of the most advanced scientific facilities in the world, and its pioneering capabilities are helping to keep the UK at the forefront of scientific research.

2017 marks a double celebration for Diamond – 15 years since the company was formed, and 10 years of research and innovation. In this time, researchers who have obtained their data at Diamond have authored over 5,000 papers.

The institute is funded by the UK Government through the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), and by the Wellcome Trust

The Harwell Campus

Harwell Campus is a public private partnership between Harwell Oxford Partners, U+I Group PLC and two Government backed agencies, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the UK Atomic Energy Agency (UKAEA).

Harwell is one of the world’s most important science and innovation locations. It has a growing reputation as the UK’s gateway to space with over 65 space and satellite applications related organisations located on campus and is now seeing rapid growth in the Life Sciences and HealthTec sector with over 1,000 people working in this field alone at Harwell.

In addition to space and life sciences, the campus hosts an array of other key sectors including, Big Data and Supercomputing, Energy and Environment and Advanced Engineering and Materials. With a legacy of many world firsts, the campus comprises 710 acres, over 200 organisations and 5,500 people.

Harwell Campus is the UK’s National Science Facility and is among Europe and the world’s leading sites dedicated to the advancement of science, technology and innovation. Having spent 75 years at the forefront of British innovation and discovery, Harwell Campus continues to drive scientific advancements to the benefit of the UK economy and centred around a community hub. Science experts, academics, government organisations, private sector R&D departments and investors create an environment where innovation, collaboration and discovery thrive.

Harwell’s Cluster Strategy

  • The Cluster of about 70 Space organisations at Harwell is testament to the power of co-locating industry, academia and the public sector alongside investors and entrepreneurs. The European Space Agency, RAL Space, The UK Space Agency, Airbus, Thales Alenia Space, Lockheed Martin, and Deimos Space UK can all be found on the Campus. This creates many opportunities for collaboration, increasing capability and sharing risk. Being within a Cluster brings access to high-quality common infrastructure, facilities and expertise, alongside exposure to new markets
  • The Harwell vision is to be home to a number of Clusters that exploit the existing strengths of the Campus. The next step is a new HealthTec Cluster that will benefit from the considerable synergies across the life and physical sciences capabilities of the Campus and the Space cluster. These clusters will enrich each other, creating a powerful multidisciplinary environment tailored to problem solving that will allow the UK to compete with the best in the world.
  • The clustering of industries, facilities and science experts has given rise to the term Harwell Effect – and is an ideal model for future science and business innovation programmes.
  • Science clusters drive economic growth. MIT has created businesses with a combined value of $3tn, the equivalent of California’s GDP. Harwell Campus is the only location in the UK with the potential to emulate this success.

To find out more about events, open days or the new developments, visit the Harwell Campus website.


Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: EPSRC Press Office
Telephone: 01793 444404
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