Britain’s national synchrotron facility reports £2.6 billion impact

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Aerial view of Diamond Light Source on the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory science campus. Credit: Diamond Light Source

An updated report reveals that the UK’s national synchrotron facility, Diamond Light Source, has had a £2.6 billion impact on UK science and economy since 2007.

The impact is rooted in the delivery of almost 12,000 journal papers on findings from research carried out at Diamond.

The UK taxpayer contributes only £2.45 annually towards Diamond’s world-changing science, less than the cost of a cup of coffee.

Diamond Light Source (pictured) is one of the UK’s largest science facilities called a synchrotron, which acts like a giant microscope.

The vast 561 metre ring-shaped facility harnesses the power of electrons to produce an intense beam of light that can be used to study atoms and molecules in incredibly fine detail.

To date, Diamond has enabled ground-breaking scientific achievements, including:

  • time-critical data and resources for improved public understanding of COVID-19
  • research of an enzyme that degrades plastic
  • a new synthetic vaccine for the virus causing foot-and-mouth disease.

The new figures on its impact are updates to the 2021 study by Technopolis, measuring Diamond’s scientific, technological, societal, and economic benefits.

Diamond Light Source is funded as a joint venture between:

  • Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
  • Wellcome Trust, UK’s largest provider of non-governmental funding for scientific research

Isabelle Boscaro-Clarke, Head of Impact at Diamond, said:

Diamond’s mission is to keep the UK at the forefront of scientific research.

We do this by providing our users, in academia and industry, access to our state-of-the-art facilities enabling them to fulfill their research goals across a wide variety of scientific disciplines. The figures speak for themselves.

They demonstrate the huge array of benefits the facility has delivered, and the leading science being achieved by our 14,000-strong global user community, who are tackling some of the most challenging scientific questions of the 21st century.

Diamond is one of the most advanced scientific facilities in the world, and its pioneering capabilities are helping to keep the UK at the forefront of scientific research.

To date, Diamond has enabled ground-breaking scientific achievements, including:

  • time-critical data and resources for improved public understanding of COVID-19
  • research of a plastic-degrading enzyme
  • new synthetic vaccine against the foot-and-mouth disease virus
  • thermal energy storage solutions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and domestic fuel bills
  • improving the lifetime of engineering components like turbine blades by studying residual stress profiles
  • characterisation of energy materials and catalysts for sustainable technologies

The updated numbers on impact illustrate how Diamond continues to act as an agent of change, addressing challenges such as:

  • disease
  • clean energy
  • food security

Minister for Science and Investment Security Nusrat Ghani said:

It comes as no surprise to see evidence like this of the significant role science and innovation play in our economy.

Diamond should be hugely proud of the leading research work they are doing with the scientific community, delivering real-world innovations from plastic degrading enzymes to synthetic vaccines against the foot-and-mouth disease virus.

The fact this work is also contributing an economic boost of over two-and-a-half billion pounds to the UK illustrates just how important the science and research sector is to our country’s growth and prosperity, and the benefits we continue to see from persevering with our ambitions to remain a science superpower.

Professor Mark Thomson, STFC Executive Chair, said:

Diamond Light Source is yet again proving itself to be a powerful asset in our world-leading science campus at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

Its exceptional capabilities allow scientists in the UK to carry out impactful research across a vast range of disciplines for the good of society.

This report demonstrates the vitally important role of research infrastructure to the UK economy, as Diamond and our other national facilities continue to provide a catalysis for economic growth.

Some of the highlights from the updated report include:

Research output

Highlights include:

  • almost 12,000 scientific articles published by Diamond’s users and scientists, resulting in a cumulative impact of £947 million
  • £589 million in direct benefits to individual users each year through access to beamtime and support
  • £924 million in value through Diamond’s contributions to structures deposited in the world’s Protein Data Bank

Patents

Highlights include:

  • collectively valued at £10.2 billion (in 2018 prices). Although the exact criticality of Diamond in each case is unknown, estimates suggest its contribution could be worth at least £103 million

Software and applications

Highlights include:

  • an estimated £51.3 million valuation for the software and applications produced at Diamond

Training

Highlights include:

  • £8.8 million in training provided through Diamond based on 19,191 days of training across 7,668 attendees in the past 5 years and commercial rates for similar courses

Wider societal benefits

Highlights include:

  • over 80,000 visitors reached to date through a programme of engagement supporting the UK skills’ agenda in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)
  • increased awareness of the value of STEM subjects to everyday lives through many news articles and outreach activities

Read the full study: socio-economic impact study of Diamond Light Source.


Source: UK Research and Innovation.

Launched in April 2018, UKRI is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). They bring together the seven disciplinary research councils, Research England, which is responsible for supporting research and knowledge exchange at higher education institutions in England, and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. For more details go to: https://www.ukri.org/

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