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UCL part of new £100 million Rosalind Franklin Institute

23 February 2017

UCL is involved in the Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI) – a major new £100 million investment by the government into the development of an innovative multi-disciplinary science and technology research centre.

Rosalind Franklin

The new Institute, announced today by Business Secretary Greg Clark, is named in honour of the pioneering scientist, Dr Rosalind Franklin, whose use of X-rays to study biological structures played a crucial role in the discovery of DNA’s ‘double helix’ structure by Francis Crick and James Watson. It will bring together UK strengths in the physical sciences, engineering and life sciences to create a national centre of excellence in technology development and innovation.

Delivered and managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the RFI will gather academic and industry researchers from across the UK to develop disruptive new technologies designed to tackle major challenges in health and life sciences, accelerate the discovery of new treatments for chronic diseases affecting millions of people around the world (such as dementia), and deliver new jobs and long-term growth to the local and UK economies.

Chair of the Research Councils and EPSRC Chief Executive, Professor Philip Nelson, said: “The UK is currently in a world leading position when it comes to developing new medical treatments and technologies in the life sciences. However, other countries are alive to the potential and are already investing heavily. The Rosalind Franklin Institute will help secure the country as one of the best places in the world to research, discover, and innovate.”

The central hub at Harwell will link to partner sites at the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester and Oxford, Imperial College, King’s College London, and UCL. Industry partners will be on board from the outset, and the Institute will grow over time, as more universities and researchers participate.

The work at new Institute will contribute directly to the delivery of EPSRC’s ‘Healthy Nation’ prosperity outcome, its Healthcare Technologies programme, and to the Technology Touching Life initiative that spans three research councils (the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and EPSRC) and seeks to foster interdisciplinary technology development research across the engineering, physical and life sciences.

UCL Engineering, Life Sciences and Mathematical & Physical Sciences faculties will initially be involved with the RFI. Research will focus on selected themes including next-generation imaging technologies – X-ray science, correlated imaging (combining X-ray, electron and light microscopy), imaging by sound and light, and biological mass spectrometry – and new chemical methods and strategies for drug discovery.

Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research), said: “Given the great breadth and strength of research at UCL, we are fortunate that academics from so many of our faculties will be involved in the new Rosalind Franklin Institute. We look forward to contributing to the development of disruptive new technologies that will enable dramatic improvements to people’s health and wellbeing.”

Business Secretary Greg Clark, said: “The UK has an extensive history of pioneering discoveries and developing new technologies and medical treatments. It’s why we made science and research a central part of our Industrial Strategy to strengthen links between research and industry, ensuring more home-grown innovation continues to benefit millions around the world.

“Named after one of the UK’s leading chemists, the new Rosalind Franklin Institute will inspire and house scientists who could be responsible for the next great discovery that will maintain the UK’s position at the forefront of global science for years to come.” 

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