The University of Cambridge is to partner in the new Rosalind Franklin Institute, a £100 million multi-disciplinary science and technology research centre announced by Business Secretary Greg Clark.

The institute is named in honour of the pioneering British scientist 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.

The institute is part of the government's Industrial Strategy to maintain the UK's global leadership in science, innovation and research and will have a hub based at the Harwell campus, outside Oxford. It will bring together UK expertise to develop new technologies that will transform our understanding of disease and speed up the development of new treatments.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “The UK has always been a pioneer in the world of science, technology and medical research. It's this excellence we want to continue to build on and why we made science and research a central part of our Industrial Strategy - strengthening 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.”

Delivered and managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Rosalind Franklin Institute will bring together 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 University College London. 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.

Patrick Vallance, President of R&D at GSK said: “We welcome the creation of the RFI which will bring world-leading, multi-disciplinary teams from industry and academia closer together, and will further strengthen the UK as a place to translate excellent science into patient benefit. Through collaboration we will be able to make advances in life science technologies much quicker than we could manage alone.”

Research at the RFI will initially be centred on five selected technology themes, focusing on 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 on new chemical methods and strategies for drug discovery.

Adapted from a press release by the EPSRC

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