The Science and Technology Facilities Council explains how its Knowledge Exchange programme has far-reaching effects
What do the World Wide Web and new security screening methods at airports have in common? They are examples of how technology funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council has impacted on our everyday lives.
The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) was formed as a new Research Council in April 2007 through a merger of the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council. It is one of Europe?s largest multidisciplinary research organisations and has a wideranging, challenging remit. It funds research in universities, provides the UK with access to worldclass science facilities in the UK and overseas, and has a broad range of in-house scientific and technical programmes ranging from space science to high-performance computing.
The STFC generates ideas and technologies that have a broad social and economic impact. Its Knowledge Exchange (KE) programme ensures that this generated knowledge is exchanged with key stakeholders in academia, industry and wider society. To do this, the STFC has developed a wide-ranging and ambitious KE programme that recognises the distinctive strengths of the new Council. The key areas of its KE programme are outlined below.
The creation of the Daresbury and Harwell Science and Innovation Campuses in the 2006 Budget has provided the platform for the public and private sector to participate in collaborative science and technology programmes across disciplines and sectors as never before. KE is a key objective for the Campuses which are making an outstanding contribution to driving and developing the UK?s knowledge economy.
Based at the Science and Technology Facilities Council?s Daresbury Laboratory, the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus (DSIC) is a vibrant collaboration involving the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the NWDA, Halton Borough Council and the Universities of Manchester, Liverpool and Lancaster, all of whom are represented on the board of the company (DSIC Ltd) set up to progress the Campus initiative.
Currently, there are three major components to the DSIC, the first of which is the Daresbury Innovation Centre. This is a state-of-the-art facility designed to attract a significant number of future science and technology-based businesses. There are currently 45 businesses housed in the Centre, ranging from SMEs to corporate companies. The Cockcroft Institute forms the second major component of the Campus. The Cockcroft Institute is an International Centre for Accelerator Science and as such will be at the forefront of accelerator R&D for many years to come. The other major component of DSIC is the Council?s Daresbury Laboratory, internationally recognised as one of the world?s major research centres that houses large-scale scientific facilities.
The Harwell Science and Innovation Campus (HSIC) encompasses the STFC?s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the UKAEA?s Harwell site. The Council and its partner, the UKAEA, are initially representing public sector interest in the Campus developments and are currently seeking a suitable investing private sector partner with whom to form a Joint Venture to develop the HSIC. The partners already enjoy close working relationships with their neighbours on the Campus, which include the Diamond Light Source, Medical Research Council and the Health Protection Agency. Early master planning and concept designs have been developed that provide incubator space for new businesses, specialist research institutes and conference facilities, surrounded by the STFC?s existing experimental facilities.
Industrial interaction with the Science and Technology Facilities Council?s research groups and facilities is a vital stimulant to innovation. This is a critical interaction as the Council seeks to increase the competitiveness of UK industry through access to science and technology arising from its research programmes and facilities. The Council?s unique position as one of the largest multi-disciplinary research organisations in Europe means that industry can be assisted in a number of ways. Some examples are given below.
The KITE Club is a free club which provides networking and brokering opportunities to enable UK companies to benefit from technologies developed within the Council?s science programmes and at its shareholdings, for example CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research). UK industry can also benefit from a range of valuable tender opportunities available through the Council?s shareholdings in several European-wide facilities and organisations. The Council provides support to facilitate this.
Another way in which the STFC can support industry is by providing access to its advanced facilities and extensive range of scientific and technical expertise. The STFC?s commercial exploitation company CLIK has recently recruited a Technical Sales Team which is working to increase industrial access to the Council?s facilities, products and expertise.
The commercialisation of STFC-funded research gives rise to innovative business ideas. There are many examples of commercial and technological advances coming from fundamental research. For example, X-ray synchrotron sources, originally a by-product of particle physics now underpin drug design. The Council supports a wide range of schemes and activities to encourage commercialisation and enterprise within its research community and facilities.
This includes the activities of CLIK, the STFC?s wholly owned technology exploitation company. CLIK has the exclusive rights to commercially exploit the intellectual property from the Council?s laboratories; the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in Oxfordshire, Daresbury Laboratory (DL) in Cheshire and the Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC) in Edinburgh. Working closely with the technical inventors, the CLIK team progresses individual projects through various business and funding models to the point of implementation as commercial licences or spin-out companies. One recent spin-out from the STFC, Thruvision, is currently testing security systems at Canary Wharf.
It is widely recognised that effective Knowledge Exchange can be effectively delivered through the movement of skilled people within and between research establishments and industrial sectors. The Science and Technology Facilities Council funded research departments, institutions and Harwell and Daresbury Science and Innovation Campuses offer a unique training ground for developing capabilities from hi-tech technicians through to dynamic researchers who will populate academic posts and positions in industry, thus driving the wider economy. The STFC has a wide-ranging Education, training and capacity-building programme which includes apprenticeship programmes, courses in collaboration with universities and industry and industry-driven studentships.
For example, the STFC runs the PIPSS Fellowship scheme which funds researchers in universities and can be used for several outcomes. These include the transfer of technologies developed through Science and Technology Facilities Council research funding to industry, the transfer of technologies developed through Council research funding to other academic disciplines, and the development of an institution?s capacity for knowledge transfer.
In addition to the programmes mentioned above the Council provides several funding opportunities for its research community, research institutes and industry to carry out Knowledge Exchange activities. For example the Council provides funding under the Dti Technology Programme to support Collaborative Research and Development projects that address innovations in the development and application of sensors and imaging technology.
The movement of skilled people, industrial assistance and commercialisation of technology are all ways in which the STFC can impact industry, academia and wider society. Working with key stakeholders, the STFC aims to deliver a worldleading KE programme alongside its science and technology programmes, which will impact on the economy and society of the UK.
More information on the Science and Technology Facilities Council can be found by visiting its website at:
The Council?s Knowledge Exchange Directorate can be contacted as follows:
Knowledge Exchange Manager
Science and Technology Facilities Council
Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus
Daresbury, Cheshire WA4 4AD
Tel: 01925 603475