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Latest STFC Impact report demonstrates the contribution science innovation makes to the UK economy and society

Impact report 2016 cover

STFC Impact Report 2016 cover
(Credit: STFC)

27 March 2017

STFC has today published their impact report for the 2015/2016 financial year, demonstrating the impact their investments have made on the UK economy, on policy and for society.

The STFC impact report showcases specific examples of the impact of investment through our various awards, programmes and collaborations. The wide-ranging nature of the impact extends from furthering technological advances to combating disease.

STFC Chief Executive Dr Brian Bowsher said “The research STFC funds, supports and undertakes seeks to understand the Universe from the largest astronomical scale to the tiniest constituents of matter, yet this work creates impact on a tangible level. This latest Impact Report reinforces the fact that thanks to our contribution and support the projects and research breakthroughs profiled inside impact across many aspects of daily life from clean energy to crop protection, dementia research to data-centric computing.”

Highlights from the 2016 report include:

World-class research

  • Our frontier research in astronomy, particle physics and nuclear physics ranks first in the world measured by citation impact. We invested more than £160 million in 2015/16 in these areas, supporting a community of over 1,000 academics in 86 universities.
  • UK researchers played a major role in supporting the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which detected gravitational waves for the very first time, one of the key scientific discoveries made in recent years. The project was awarded a prize worth £2 million for extraordinary scientific achievement, and UK universities have been translating the technology from the project into areas such as stem cell technology and improved surgical safety.
  • Our UK facilities deliver considerable impact, some examples this year are: Diamond Light Source (Diamond) celebrated their 5000th publication whereby researchers published the discovery of a genetic trigger behind birth defects; our ISIS neutron source facility supported the pharmaceutical industry in the delivery of more effective drugs and in the development of new antibiotics; and the Central Laser Facility (CLF) recently delivered a £10 million pulsed laser system, the most advanced high power laser of its kind in the world, for the HILASE research facility in Prague.
  • Working with European Space Agency (ESA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on hundreds of missions, RAL Space has been central to the UK space industry for over 30 years. The sector has doubled over the past decade, to £13.7 billion in 2014/15. RAL Space is playing a key role in the EU Copernicus earth observation system and has built a dedicated facility for pre-flight calibration. The Copernicus programme is expected to create 48,000 jobs and a £27 billion boost to Europe’s GDP by 2030.

World-class innovation

  • The Harwell and Sci-Tech Daresbury Campuses currently host over 300 enterprises and support more than 6,000 jobs, creating the right conditions for high-tech SMEs to grow.
  • This year tenant companies at Sci-Tech Daresbury created over 87 jobs, attracted £15 million of investment (£181 million since 2010) and developed 98 new products (754 since 2010).
  • Between 2010 and 2015, over £100 million was invested into our business incubation companies across all STFC sites from investors worldwide. Some 36% of companies receiving investment in the past year attributed this to being located on an STFC Campus. In this period, over 230 new jobs were created and companies generated 110 new products, 69 patent applications and two licences, firmly indicating the success of this unique incubation model.
  • MIRICO Ltd, an STFC spin-out in 2015, is adapting technology originally designed for exploring Mars for a range of commercial applications in environmental monitoring, detecting counterfeit foods and disease diagnostics. This year, a £1 million investment from the Rainbow Seed Fund and Longwall Ventures will bring MIRICOs’ product closer to market.

World-class skills

  • We play a key role in attracting young people to follow STEM careers. Applications to university physics courses continue to rise and in 2015 physics applications increased by nearly 3% from the year before, up 32% between 2008 and 2015.
  • We invested £23.4 million in postgraduate training and fellowships in particle physics, nuclear physics and astronomy, including 229 new PhD studentships, bringing the current cohort to 766. Working in our frontier science gives our students a range of transferrable skills applicable to both the research base and high-tech industries, for example in data-intensive science. 38% of STFC graduates move into industry, whilst 38% remain in a research post at university, and 8% get a post in the third sector, for example in a charity or not-for-profit organisation.
  • In 2015/16 our national labs and university funded engagement programmes reached 2 million members of the public and 295,000 students.
  • STFC’s apprenticeship scheme offers structured training to over 50 people in their early career. Whether it is engineering, computing and IT, or electrical and mechanical apprenticeships, a structured programme of training supports the apprentices in gaining qualifications, ranging from foundation degrees, to NVQ’s and HND’s.

Further information


Jake Gilmore
STFC Media Manager

Collectively, the seven UK Research Councils invest over £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. This helps to achieve balanced growth as well as contributing to a healthy society and a sustainable world. It ensures the UK builds capacity, safeguards the long-term sustainability of research and remains a global leader in research and innovation. Additionally, by working in partnership, the Research Councils combine investments in a multitude of global societal and economic challenge areas to achieve even greater impact.

A set of slides summarising key impacts across the Research Councils is available.

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000