The British Government is supporting ambitious plans for UK science by announcing the go-ahead for the latest stage of development that will make Diamond Light Source a world-leading hub for research.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has allocated $146.7 million (£97.4 million) to the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) for Diamond’s Phase III development at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
Diamond is capable of studying a huge variety of samples from every discipline of scientific research. Recent examples of materials studied have included brain tissue to further our understanding of Parkinson’s disease and metal for hip replacements.
Lord Mandelson said,“Today we’re demonstrating our ambitious vision for UK science. By investing in one of the jewels in the nation’s science crown we’re building on record levels of investments over the past decade to secure the future of science and help drive innovation.
“Diamond – the world-best Light Source – shines a light on how strategic government investment in high-tech, high-skilled facilities can push at the boundaries of science and drive forward the new high-tech, high-skilled industries and jobs of the future.”
Diamond, the largest medium energy light source in the world and unique as a national resource in Europe, is a giant machine called a Synchrotron which uses cutting-edge technology to generate brilliant beams of light, from infra-red to X-rays, to examine the properties of materials at an atomic and molecular level. This has led to pioneering and ground-breaking research in the life, physical and environmental sciences.
The new funding boost, together with a $20.7 million (£13.8 million) contribution from the Wellcome Trust, will add 10 more beamlines to the cutting edge facility, eventually bringing the total to 32.
Prof Gerhard Materlik, Chief Executive of Diamond Light Source, said, “We are very grateful for the continued support of the UK Government, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the Wellcome Trust, which has been key to the successes we have achieved so far.
“Together with our wide user community from academia and industry, we have delivered on expectations so far. This Phase III capital investment demonstrates our funders’ commitment to the UK science base. The team will now focus on delivering the additional experimental facilities by 2017, which will enable us to increase our scientific outputs by 50%. “
Professor Keith Mason, Chief Executive of STFC said, “Since the start of operations in January 2007, Diamond has conducted experiments and delivered world class science in numerous areas ranging from trying to find new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease to investigating ways to clean up the environment. This extra money announced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will ensure Diamond can branch out into yet more fields of research, allowing Diamond to fully exploit the synchrotron’s capabilities for the UK science community and industrial users.”
Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said, “Diamond is a world class facility and it is essential that it has both the capital and the revenue funding necessary for it to deliver world class science.
“We have been greatly impressed with the achievements of the team at Diamond who have delivered high quality beamlines on budget and to specification. The Wellcome Trust is very pleased to work in partnership with the Government, through STFC, to continue to support its development.”
Research at the facility underpins innovation and development in technologies where the UK leads the world such as pharmaceuticals, aerospace, energy storage and transport.
The new beamlines will extend Diamond’s reach into novel areas: in industrial processing, engineering materials, forensics, environmental and medical science, archaeology, cultural heritage and food science.
Once the 10 new beamlines are up and running, they could potentially benefit almost every aspect of our lives and lead to applications such as:
· developing cheaper and more effective ways to remove toxins from polluted soils which currently cost an estimated tens of billions of pounds;
· providing high resolution 3D images of biological samples which will further our knowledge of diseases and help develop new therapies;
· examining the electronic structure of complex materials that have a potentially great impact on the development of new ultra-fast electronic devices and materials for energy storage;
· understanding the viscosity (the thickness) of food substances which could lead to better-designed and more efficient production processes.
BIS also announced today the allocation of $72.4 million (£48 million) to the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to replace the RRS Discovery research ship and maintain the UK’s international leadership in delivering high quality marine science.
Together with $40.6 million (£27 million) contribution to the project from NERC, the new vessel will help researchers answer the biggest environmental questions facing us now and in the future.