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How does STFC contribute to society and the economy?

STFC Impact Report 2016

From clean energy to crop protection and from dementia research to data-centric computing, our impact is felt across many aspects of daily life. Our facilities support interdisciplinary research from a range of physical and life sciences through to focused missions such as the detection of gravitational waves. Our science benefits society and the UK economy by:

  • generating new knowledge and technology from discovery research;
  • encouraging translation of research to marketable products;
  • providing highly-skilled people for the UK research base and the wider economy;
  • helping to develop future generations of scientists, engineers and technologists

To find out more, read our newly published Impact Report 2016

Here are some highlights:

Advanced LIGO makes ground-breaking detection of gravitational waves

LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) is the most sensitive measuring device ever constructed. An international team of scientists used it to detect gravitational waves for the first time ever, confirming a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity.

UK researchers and engineers played a major role in supporting LIGO. STFC provided computational support for operating LIGO’s detectors, and enabled the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Gravitational Research to develop detector hardware and software for sensing gravitational waves from astrophysical sources.

Celebrating success at Diamond Light Source

Diamond is the UK’s synchrotron facility. It works like a giant microscope, harnessing the power of electrons to produce bright light that scientists can use to investigate the structure and properties of a wide range of materials. This year Diamond celebrated its 5,000th publication, a paper revealing the discovery of one of the genetic triggers behind a range of birth defects, including congenital heart disease.

In the past year over 100 companies have used Diamond and it has supported research in areas such as:

  • drug discovery;
  • osteoarthritis;
  • lithium ion batteries;
  • gas turbine development in the aerospace industry;
  • the development of new catalytic materials such as fuel cell catalysts.

Supercomputers monitor devices to help heart disease patients

Researchers from STFC’s Scientific Computing Department have been working with a team of international researchers and EDF Energy, using computational fluid dynamics and high performance computing to simulate the performance of blood pumps.

These devices are implanted into patients, allowing them to survive while waiting for a heart donor. The aim is to speed up prototyping and clinical testing, saving time, materials and costs. It could lead to the earlier availability of devices for patient use.

Hartree Centre

Our Hartree Centre is a partner in the major new £20.4 million ADDoPT project (Advanced Digital Design of Pharmaceutical Therapeutics) with major pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, GSK, AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Hartree’s data analytics and modelling capabilities are being used for designing pharmaceutical manufacturing processes optimised for delivering higher quality lower cost medicines.

Harwell Space Cluster – UK Space Gateway

The Harwell Space Cluster is the focal point for UK, European and world-wide space industry within the UK. It has grown from just three space-related organisations employing 200 people in 2010 to 70 organisations, now employing over 700 people.

The ESA Business Incubation Centre is managed and co-funded by STFC, and helps small businesses to translate ideas from space technology into non-space fields. ESA BIC tenant Oxford Space Structures has developed a revolutionary new design of travel cot, using technology designed to unfurl space satellites 30,000 miles above the earth.

Inspiring and Involving

This year we have communicated the inspiring nature of our science to almost 300,000 students and two million members of the public. We aim to improve science and engineering literacy, increase take up of STEM subjects, and develop the skills needed to build the UK’s high tech economy. 90% of physics undergraduates have their interest sparked the most by fields of science supported by STFC. Since 2008, applications to STEM courses have increased significantly, with an increase of 32% for physical sciences, 30% for mathematical sciences, 39% for engineering and 43% for computer sciences.

Our Daresbury Open Week in July 2016 welcomed 8,000 visitors and 1,000 school children. One visitor said:

“All I can do is add to the many other posts congratulating you on a really well organised, fun day for the whole family. We had 4 hours there and didn't see half of it… It's one thing to keep an 8 year old happy with rocket launching but to also have his 40 something dad dragged away from an interesting conversation about particle accelerators is a mean feat. Please do this again, we'll be there!”

Last updated: 04 April 2018


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