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STFC Announces Ambitious BP1.906bn Science Funding Programme

STFC is helping to secure the future of UK ground-based astronomy through its support for the most ambitious global astronomy projects, including the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).
by Staff Writers
London, UK (SPX) Jul 10, 2008
The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has announced a three-year BP1.906bn funding programme which will maintain UK scientific leadership in physics and astronomy and operate world-leading facilities for the benefit of UK scientists.

STFC's Council met at STFC's Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire on 1 July and agreed to the programme following a three-month consultation overseen by STFC's advisory Science Board and its panels. More than 1,400 submissions from the UK and abroad were considered during the consultation.

"STFC has balanced its budget and agreed on a very ambitious and scientifically sound programme of funding," said STFC chief executive Prof Keith Mason. STFC is funding an exciting portfolio of projects which will deliver excellent research and maintain the UK's scientific leadership."

The funding includes support to universities and research facilities for fundamental science, research facilities and technology development in nuclear physics, particle physics, neutrino science, neutron scattering, lasers and light sources, space exploration and astronomy.

Highlights include support for UK participation in global astronomy projects, particle physics experiments at CERN, a neutrino physics project in Japan, a nuclear physics facility in Germany, the search for gravitational waves and exploring whether life has ever been present on Mars.

At the STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in Oxfordshire, a new laser under development will enable UK scientists to monitor biological processes such as those in living cells at a millionth of a millionth of a second.

The ISIS neutron facility at RAL is expanding its study of materials at the atomic level into the new research areas of bioscience and soft matter. At the adjacent Diamond Light Source in Harwell, Oxfordshire, new beam lines will enable researchers to harness a light 10 billion times brighter than the sun to map atomic and molecular structures.

At the Daresbury Laboratory, in the North West of England, STFC will operate the Energy Recovery Linac Prototype (ERLP), also called ALICE, as part of the accelerator science and technology programme to allow this innovative technique to be tested.

The EMMA project will use ERLP/ALICE to establish the prospects for a new cancer treatment technology.

STFC confirmed its intention to contribute to the operating costs for the eMerlin radio-astronomy facility. STFC is working with the University of Manchester and other stakeholders to find a viable way in which eMerlin operations can be supported on a shared cost basis.

Together with STFC's investment in development for the next generation facility in radio astronomy, the Square Kilometre Array led by the University of Manchester, this should secure the future for the famous Jodrell Bank Observatory.

STFC has also given the green light for new projects to start in this Comprehensive Spending Review period, including the AGATA nuclear physics project to study nuclear stability, with key involvement from STFC's Daresbury Laboratory as well as UK university groups.

"The next three years will see dramatic advances in the capabilities available to UK researchers, be it medical researchers using the Diamond Light Source's new beam-lines, particle physicists using CERN to learn about events just after the Big Bang, astronomers surveying the skies with the new VISTA telescope or biologists testing samples at the new ISIS beam-lines or the ULTRA laser," Prof Mason said.

"UK scientists have a lot to look forward to."

"We've made some difficult but necessary choices in order to keep the UK at the forefront of international scientific research," Prof Mason said. We have targeted our money very carefully at the areas which will have greatest impact for UK science."

Prof Mason added that STFC would not compromise on excellent scientific research. He said the programme he was announcing would help the UK scientific community to demonstrate the economic impact of science to government, business and the tax-paying public.

Highlights of STFC funding programme
- STFC is helping to secure the future of UK ground-based astronomy through its support for the most ambitious global astronomy projects, including the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).

- STFC is supporting the FAIR facility in Germany as a vital step for UK nuclear physics researchers to develop their understanding of nuclear structure, nuclear astrophysics and hadron physics.

- The UK is a leading partner in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the most ambitious particle physics experiment ever undertaken.

- The UK ATC in Edinburgh is leading development of one of the three instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Telescope.

- STFC is investing in T2K in Japan, soon to be the world's leading neutrino physics experiment.

- ULTRA is a new laser facility under development at STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL). It will enable UK scientists to monitor biological processes at a millionth of a millionth of a second using light from the ultraviolet to the infra-red. ULTRA has been funded through a major facility development grant of BP1.8m, resourced equally by STFC and BBSRC.

- A BP140m investment in the ISIS second target station at RAL enables the ISIS science programme to expand into key research areas of soft matter, advanced materials and bio-science.

- Also at RAL is Astra Gemini, is a new world-class laser facility which helps the UK maintain its international scientific leadership and influence in photon science. Astra Gemini is unique among international laser facilities. It will improve the intensity of the laser-based research facilities by a factor of ten. Astra-Gemini is funded from STFC's Facilities Development Fund, which has received high priority as a result of the Programmatic Review.

- The ExoMars mission to search for evidence of past and present life on Mars is supported by STFC through its subscription to the European Space Agency's Aurora Programme.

- STFC is a major shareholder (86%) in the BP260m Diamond Light Source synchrotron facility, the largest UK science investment in 30 years.

- STFC supports the cutting edge search for gravitational waves with the GEO600 detector in Germany and the US-based Advanced LIGO upgrade.

- At the Daresbury Laboratory, STFC will operate the Energy Recovery Linac Prototype (ERLP), also called ALICE, as part of the accelerator science and technology programme to allow this innovative technique to be tested. It will also allow the EMMA project to use ERLP/ALICE to establish the prospects for a new cancer treatment technology.

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