UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has today announced a £481 million investment in major research and innovation infrastructure over the next three years.

The injection of funding will deliver cutting-edge facilities and equipment, including the UK’s most powerful microscope and the UK’s ‘flying lab’.

The 23 major infrastructure projects and 9 scoping studies through UKRI’s Infrastructure Fund will help to maintain the UK’s position as a science superpower.

The funding will power groundbreaking work across a spectrum of disciplines and help tackle a range of societal issues, from the impacts of climate change to adolescent mental health.

New and upgraded facilities across the UK will strengthen international capability and transform expertise across:

  • the arts
  • physics
  • life and environmental science
  • social science
  • medicine
  • many more research areas.

Major projects include:

A transformative upgrade for the UK’s national synchrotron (Diamond-II)

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.

UKRI has announced a new investment of £81.5 million over the next three years in Diamond-II, which when complete will:

  • open up new pathways for materials research and drug development
  • offer real-time insights into processes such as advanced manufacturing and the performance of next-generation batteries.

Funding is subject to business case approvals.

A major upgrade to UKRI’s Airborne Laboratory (FAAM)

The UK’s Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) is a flying laboratory that enables scientists to track and evaluate pollution, severe weather and the effects of climate change.

The aircraft analyses the atmosphere and monitors air pollution levels over UK and international skies.

It has tracked:

  • dangerous gases caused by volcanic eruptions
  • surveyed drought in Africa.

£37 million will be invested in upgrading the aircraft’s scientific equipment which will continue to support environmental scientists for the next 18 years.

A new national innovation infrastructure providing cutting-edge resources to the creative industries (CoSTAR)

CoSTAR is a new creative facility for the UK’s renowned screen, gaming and performance sectors.

The state-of-the-art facility receives funding of £24 million and will support fast-growing creative industries to develop new products and experiences.

It will comprise a central hub and experimental studio fitted with real-time digital technologies such as motion and volumetric capture.

These and other advanced technologies will allow the viewer to rotate or move around in what appears to be a three-dimensional space.

The central hub will be enhanced by a network of regional labs across the UK.

Funding is subject to business case approvals.

Find out more about the Infrastructure Fund projects.

Cutting edge equipment and facilities

UKRI Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said:

From drug discovery to advances in digital arts, advances in research and innovation depend on access to cutting edge equipment and facilities.

The UK is home to world-renowned facilities in a wide range of fields, which act as global hubs for research and innovation.

We must ensure that we renew and upgrade that capability to keep pace with technological advances, empowering our researchers and innovators to go further faster.

Today, we are investing £481 million across the UK that will ensure our talented people, teams and innovative businesses have access to the world-class infrastructure they need to unlock their full potential.

Infrastructure Fund

The three-year £481 million investment is made from UKRI’s Infrastructure Fund.

The lifetime UKRI Infrastructure Fund investment in this portfolio is estimated to be £1.6 billion.

Many of the investments will be subject to business case and further approvals.

Photo credit: Diamond Light Source. Diamond is the UK’s national synchrotron science facility. It’s shaped like a huge ring, and is a bit like a giant microscope. Diamond speeds up electrons to near light speeds, producing a light 10 billion times brighter than the sun. These bright beams are then directed off into laboratories known as ‘beamlines’; here scientists use the light to study everything from viruses and vaccines to fossils and jet engines.

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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