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What our scientific discoveries mean for you

STFC’s discovery research seeks to understand the Universe from the largest astronomical scale to the tiniest constituents of matter, yet creates impact on a very tangible level. From cancer research to clean energy, powering transport to cultural heritage - our impact is felt across many aspects of daily life.

Impact Report cover

Impact Report 2015

If you’ve ever wondered what science has done for you, we’ve just published our annual Impact Report. Our research has been applied to help develop new drugs and improve cancer care, sustain the UK’s energy infrastructure, and improve our understanding of global warming. Here are some highlights from the last year:

Our Strategy for Cancer sets out how our key capabilities can help improve cancer care. In the UK alone, more than 330,000 people are diagnosed with cancer each year and this is expected to rise to 425,000 by 2030. In addition to its human impact, cancer-related services cost the NHS £5 billion each year, and the loss of productivity of £18.3 billion costs society as a whole. Our commitment is to work in partnership, to provide a wide range of technological expertise, and encourage interactions between scientists and health professionals, in support of national efforts to cure more cancers and save more lives. Some of examples of how we will support this aim can be read in the Report.

The 1.4 million cases of Hepatitis A infection worldwide every year cost between one and two billion pounds annually, despite the availability of an effective vaccine. The virus, associated with poor sanitation and a lack of safe water, leads to infection of the liver. Whilst most people recover, acute Hepatitis A caused 102,000 deaths globally in 2010. Now, for the first time, scientists have determined unique characteristics of the virus’ atomic structure; considerably advancing Hepatitis A research and laying the groundwork for improved vaccines and a range of anti-viral drugs.

Over 73 million asthma inhalers are used every year in the UK. Scientists have trapped microscopic particles of the drug commonly found in asthma inhalers, and examined how they behave as they are projected through the air. This has helped understand how the expelled drug particles behave as they enter the human respiratory tract and travel into the lungs. This new research could help improve the effectiveness of inhalers for more than five million people in the UK suffering from asthma.

UK start-up KnowNow Information is using the Hartree Centre to develop a flood model that can predict where and when flooding will occur, and the likelihood of specific incidents, such as a car getting stuck in an overflowing river. KnowNow’s model is revolutionising how the UK emergency services plan for, and respond to, extreme weather conditions, and will help save lives and millions of pounds.

Hinkley Point C, the planned nuclear power station in Somerset, could generate 7% of the UK’s electricity needs. The power station will use a new kind of reactor. Working with the Open University, AREVA has designed a new welding procedure for the reactor that meets stringent demands for increased safety and will reduce the cost of electricity generation.

Each year £3.3 billion is spent on decommissioning nuclear sites in the UK. STFC facilities are playing a critical role in developing a clear understanding of disposing of waste in a safe, secure, and cost-effective way. Over the last three years, the Environmental Radioactivity Network has catalysed the rapid development of environmental radioactivity research and has supported the training of over 100 researchers, bringing international best practice to the UK.

This year we have worked with nearly 20,000 school teachers, communicating the inspiring nature of our science to almost 300,000 students and involving two million members of the public. Our Harwell Open Week in July 2015 welcomed 16,000 visitors to see the breadth of science at the Campus and help young people get excited about science. 93% of visitors said they ‘would recommend the event’!

Our ISIS facility, helps develop current skills capabilities by providing ‘on-the-job’ training for between 500-800 early career researchers every year, many of whom go on to work in academia and industry. This training on ISIS valued at £30 million over a 30-year period, is an example of how we support the UK as one of the world’s leading research nations and equip a skilled workforce to help keep us at the cutting-edge of technology.

From addressing the challenges arising from; the effects of climate change, an ageing population and international security risks. Advancing our understanding of diseases and drug development. Generating new knowledge and technology from discovery research and encouraging translation of research to marketable products. Providing highly-skilled people for the UK research base and the wider economy, and helping to develop future generations of scientists, engineers and technologists. These are ways in which our science benefits the society and the UK economy. To find out more, read our newly published Impact Report 2015.

Collectively, the seven Research Councils invest £3 billion in research each year covering all disciplines and sectors, to meet tomorrow’s challenges today and provide the world-class research and skills that are the foundation of a strong and productive UK economy. By working in partnership, the Research Councils combine investments in a multitude of global societal and economic challenge areas to achieve even greater impact. To read more visit the RCUK website.

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000