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Two Oxfordshire research facilities secure £4m UKRI funding

Two Oxfordshire research facilities secure £4m UKRI funding
Image: Diamond Light Source. Image courtesy of Harwell Campus.

Scientists at the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Diamond Light Source are set to benefit from £4 million of funding aimed at offering the next generation of neutron and X-ray science.

The two globally renowned research facilities at Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire will get a share of £50 million investment by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) into a portfolio of over a dozen infrastructure projects and scoping studies to underpin the UK’s position as a research superpower.

The two projects to benefit from the funding are as follows:

ISIS II, £1.5 million

The ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, based at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, produces beams of neutrons and muons that allow scientists to study materials at the atomic level using a suite of instruments, often described as ‘super-microscopes’.

This scoping funding will enable feasibility and design studies on the proton driver and target system architecture for the next generation of the ISIS neutron facility.

Diamond II, £2.5 million

Diamond Light Source is the UK’s national synchrotron, funded via UKRI’s STFC and the Wellcome Trust. It harnesses the power of electrons to produce an intense beam of light that can be used like a giant microscope.

This scoping project will develop the technical design for a transformative upgrade of the synchrotron required to offer a 70-fold improvement in the brightness of the light: increasing performance through the speed of observations, resolution of images and sensitivity of the chemical analysis.

Reactions

UKRI Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said: “Infrastructure and the skilled people who design, build, maintain and operate it are vital to research and innovation. This investment provides the foundation from which the UK will continue to play an important role in the advancement of scientific research and understanding around the world.”

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “If the last year and a half has taught us anything it’s that new challenges can arise from anywhere at any time. By investing millions in the UK’s research infrastructure, we are putting science and innovation at the heart of our efforts to build back better while ensuring that we can respond to challenges now and in the future – from pandemic preparedness to tackling climate change.”

Professor Robert McGreevy, Director of the ISIS Facility, said: “For over 30 years ISIS has been a world renowned UK research facility, used to study everything from anti-bacterials to batteries. But the present facility won’t last forever. This investment enables us to start the early design for a new facility.”

Professor Mark Thomson, Chief Executive of STFC, said: “STFC’s RAL campus is the home to a variety of very large multi-disciplinary research facilities, including the Diamond Light Source synchrotron, and the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source. RAL is unique in bringing together such a wide range of top-end facilities on a single site.

“These world-leading machines provide intense beams of light and other particles to image matter at the molecular and atomic scale for a wide range of research disciplines. The investment announced today is an important step in maintaining the UK’s position as a global science leader with cutting-edge national scientific facilities.”

Professor Andrew Harrison, CEO of Diamond Light Source, said: “Diamond’s mission is to keep the UK at the forefront of scientific research. We do this by providing our 14,000 strong users in academia and industry with access to our state-of-the-art facilities, enabling them to fulfil their research goals across a wide variety of scientific disciplines.

“The economic impact of Diamond has been estimated as at least £1.8 billion to date, representing a very favourable return on investment. The Diamond-II Programme will build on Diamond’s world-class position and enable us to continue to deliver brilliant science tackling some of the most challenging scientific questions of the 21st century.

“We are very grateful to our funding agencies UKRI’s STFC and the Wellcome Trust for their trust and ongoing support.”

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