Each year STFC’s Impact Report presents quantitative data and case study examples which illustrate the breadth and depth of our economic and societal impact.
The Impact Report 2017 showcases STFC’s impact on the UK’s science and innovation landscape in the 10 years since our establishment, and celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Diamond Light Source, the 40th anniversary of our Central Laser facility, and the 50th anniversary of STFC’s Chilbolton Observatory. It also reports on our recent evaluations of the Hartree Centre and the Square Kilometre Array.
STFC-funded researchers are amongst the leading nations in particle physics, nuclear physics and astronomy, according to our analysis of citations for the period 2014-2016. We invested around £165 million in support to university programmes in these areas in 2015/16, supporting a community of more than 1,000 academics in 86 universities.
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Professors Kip Thorne, Barry Barish and Rainer Weiss for their work on detecting gravitational waves for the very first time. This work was made possible by Advanced LIGO (aLIGO), which relied heavily on initial UK capital funding and on expertise from UK universities and our own laboratories.
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to British biochemist Professor Richard Henderson “for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution”, alongside Professors Jacques Dubochet and Joachim Frank. Professor Henderson and STFC have collaborated for the past decade on the development of sensors for the cryo-electron microscopy that he pioneered. The revolution in cry-electron microscopy is continuing at the Diamond Light Source, where researchers have used the technique to investigate the structure of a new, plant-based polio vaccine.
Our large facilities continue to deliver substantial impact. Using the powerful X-rays produced at the Diamond Light Source, a team of scientists from the University of Oxford has successfully mapped the structure of the deadly Ebola virus molecule, and is now exploring new drugs to prevent the disease.
The use of plant material for energy could create an alternative fuel that is almost carbon neutral. Using ISIS, scientists from the University of Manchester and East China University of Science and Technology have overcome the challenge of breaking down raw biomass without the need for chemical pre-treatment, producing record high amounts of clean liquid hydrocarbon fuel.
Following the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012, five new particles have been discovered in the past year, thanks to the incredibly sensitive LHCb experiment at CERN. The LHCb confirmed their existence, which has been theorised but never before proven, thereby helping physicists to gain greater understanding of the ‘strong force’ which glues nucleons together, as well as opening up entirely new avenues in particle physics.
Harwell and Sci-Tech Daresbury Campuses currently host more than 300 enterprises and support more than 6,700 jobs, creating the conditions needed for high-tech SMEs to grow. Added to this are the plans in hand to expand the UK ATC’s innovation activities with the opening of the Higgs Centre for Innovation in early 2018, providing business incubation for the growing number of high-tech start-up businesses in Scotland.
The UK Space Cluster at Harwell now comprises 80 different organisations, employing 800 people, and will soon see the construction of the ISCF-funded £99 million National Space Test Facility (NSTF). The new facility is expected to deliver a return of £3.90 for every £1 of Government investment. The Harwell HealthTec cluster is also developing apace: it now includes more than 40 organisations, employing more than 1,000 people.
The Harwell Campus is also due to host two new, Government-funded, EPSRC-supported research organisations: the £100 million Rosalind Franklin Institute, a multi-disciplinary science and technology research centre which aims to help transform understanding of disease and speed up the development of new treatments; and the £65 million Faraday Institution, a major initiative to support research into energy storage.
This year, 13 new inventors were identified across the National Laboratories, and £7.7 million was generated from patents and intellectual property. Since 2002, 19 spin-outs have been created from our National Laboratories, raising more than £73 million in third-party investment.
STFC continues to facilitate the growth of the world-class scientific and technical skills needed to ensure that the UK maintains its international status as a destination of choice for collaborative, interdisciplinary science, technology and innovation.
In 2016/17, our National Laboratories and university-funded engagement programmes communicated the inspiring nature of our science to 1.4 million members of the public, including nearly 337,000 school- and further-education students. We also extended our reach to demographics traditionally less well served by STEM, and joined 23 other countries in marking Dark Matter Day through a nationwide suite of engagement events.
STFC is investing £23 million per year in postgraduate training and fellowships in particle physics, nuclear physics and astronomy, helping to equip our graduates with the breadth of skills needed for both academia and industry. For example, we are continuing to invest in PhD students by providing them with more than 14,000 training days at our large facilities.
This year, in support of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, funding is also being provided to nearly 100 additional students through Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), bringing the total number currently supported to more than 850. CDT students will be trained to analyse data from astrophysics, accelerator science, nuclear or particle physics research.