Access for SMEs to STFC's large facilities

STFC has large-scale, world-leading research facilities which can be used to solve industrial challenges in a wide range of sectors. These facilities are commercially available to SMEs, with a number of schemes in place to encourage their use in areas of mutual interest. SMEs can access scientific equipment they would otherwise not have the opportunity to use, taking full advantage of STFC’s capabilities, facilities and expertise.

One of those facilities is ISIS a pulsed neutron and muon source which is able to image a wide range of materials, from heavy metals, to delicate organic matter, without causing destruction. ISIS offers a collaborative R&D programme which is a fast-track, low risk route that small businesses can access.

ISIS Collaborative R&D Programme

The ISIS Collaborative R&D programme provides a way for companies to access the ISIS facility. It aims to widen the use of ISIS by industry in order to further increase the economic benefit that ISIS contributes to the United Kingdom. ISIS already works closely with industry, with over 60 companies using the facility in 2012, from sectors including chemicals and plastics, healthcare, aerospace, transport, manufacturing, automotive and the energy industry, but we are keen to increase this involvement!

The scheme is open to any proposal with an idea that has potential economic benefit to the UK. It allows companies, from start-ups to multinationals, to explore how neutrons could help their research, capitalising on ISIS expertise in carrying out experiments and data analysis. ISIS scientists assist users through the experimental process, and also have an extensive network of contacts in academia. This helps companies wanting to form new collaborations to find people working in their field.

ISIS Beam time is free at point of use through a collaboration agreement, where potential economic impact is the main assessment criteria. The research remains confidential during the period of the experiment and the subsequent data analysis, and the scheme provides an option to buy the data confidentiality at the end of the collaboration.

Chris Frost is the ISIS industrial liaison manager. He says, “This is a new way for industry to work in partnership with ISIS and deliver impact for the UK. The ISIS Collaborative R&D programme makes it much easier for industry to use ISIS, and the fast-track access gives the right conditions for working to solve industrial research problems.”

Other facilities available for SMEs to access are:

Central Laser Facility (CLF), a suite of laser systems that offer a variety of radiation types for use in high speed dynamic imaging.

Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility of which STFC is a major shareholder, which can be used by industry to study fine atomic structures across the physical and life sciences.

The Hartree Centre, home of the UK’s most powerful supercomputer available for commercial use. It can provide SMEs with easy, affordable access to modelling and simulation capabilities, data processing facilities and expertise and parallel software development/optimisations skills.

Access is available to the Versatile Electron Linear Accelerator (VELA), a state-of-the-art particle accelerator, which can be tailored to meet each SMEs requirements; from the supply of beam-only at fixed daily rates, through to full collaborative programmes utilizing the expertise and supporting infrastructure available across STFC.

For more information on any of the above please contact

Last updated: 15 September 2017


Science and Technology Facilities Council
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