History of UCL-Wales Colaboration

The Optical Science Laboratory at UCL has been developing technology to manufacture optical surfaces since the early 1990’s, through various research grants and contracts. In the early 2000’s it became apparent that the activity was out-growing the space at UCL’s inner-London site. Moreover, investment in new computer-controlled technology at a larger scale than could be accommodated in London was urgently needed.

With this in view, UCL led a successful £4.2m bid to the RCUK Basic Technology scheme, in collaboration with Cranfield University and industrial partners. The project “Ultra Precision Surfaces: A New Paradigm” (2004-2008) had two core objectives:- i) to establish a new National Facility for Ultra-Precision Surfaces, and ii) to develop several innovative surface-removal processes individually and in combination. The opportunity of manufacturing mirror-segments for extremely large telescopes was on the horizon, and a key objective of the research was to equip the UK with the capability to undertake such work.

The location of the National Facility was a key consideration. The new OpTIC-Technium building in St Asaph North Wales provided the ideal environment for the work. OpTIC was established by Welsh Assembly Government as part of the Welsh Technium network to stimulate technology-transfer to industry. It is located in the North Wales Electro-optics Cluster of companies, and hosts 24 Incubator Units for start-up companies, a Technology Centre, and a Business Development Centre. This gave the National Facility the near-market flavor that the National Facility was seeking to achieve. In 2009, at the end of the five-year period of Welsh funding, OpTIC was acquired by the Glyndŵr University, which operates it today.

The success of the Basic Technology project led on to a Translation Grant (UCL and Cranfield) 2008-2012, and an Integrated Knowledge Centre in Ultra-Precision and Structured Surfaces (Cranfield, UCL and Cambridge) 2007-2012. It also led to the award from the European Southern Observatory of a €5m contract to manufacture seven 1.4m prototype mirror-segments as prototypes for the proposed 42m European Extremely Large Telescope – amply fulfilling the original objective

OpTIC is geographically well-connected, being on the main A55 North-Wales artery, convenient for accessing the motorway network, and only 2h 45m by train from London Euston (itself a few minutes walk from UCL). St Asaph is also within easy reach of the Snowdonia National Park.

The collaboration with UCL continues, and PhD students registered with UCL working on relevant topics of research are based at OpTIC. The students visit the main campus for various events, and for specialist short taught courses in particular

Page last modified on 22 oct 10 11:25 by A Peter Doel