Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 7

Submission from Professor Stephen Hill, Principal, Royal Holloway, University of London


  I am writing to indicate my concern over the funding Crisis in STFC.

  ISIS and Diamond are major national resources for national and international research programmes. They act as a magnet for the best international researchers, and underpin some of the best UK research in condensed matter physics.

  At Royal Holloway we are extremely concerned about the impact of possible cuts to ISIS and Diamond, resulting from the STFC funding crisis. We are concerned not only by the consequent impact on this research agenda, but also that on Physics Departments in the region. The status of Physics as a strategically important and vulnerable subject is well recognised. Proposed cuts to STFC simply undermine the positive steps that are being taken elsewhere.

  The following details give examples of important activities which are potentially under threat:

  The Department of Physics at Royal Holloway has established as a key part of its research strategy the development of strong links with ISIS and DIAMOND.

  We are involved in setting up a regional consortium (SEPNET), which is in the process of applying to HEFCE Strategic Development Fund, with the objective of ensuring the sustainability of Physics in the region.

  This has as a key part of its proposal the establishment of a strategic partnership with ISIS and Diamond fuelled by a number of jointly funded posts. Office space at the RAL campus will foster this partnership. Together with other actions proposed by SEPNET, on student training, employer engagement and outreach, we intend to work together to promote the knowledge transfer agenda and the regional economy.

  There has been substantial investment in equipment for materials discovery, both in universities and at RAL. It is vital that we are able to take advantage of this investment, since it will enable UK scientists to develop new materials and set the agenda in condensed matter research.

  In addition Royal Holloway is partnering with ISIS and Diamond, to establish a Centre for the Theory of Condensed Matter, spearheaded by a Chair at RHUL. This addresses weaknesses highlighted in the International Review of Physics 2005. The Centre would promote the interaction of theorists and experimentalists in a subject that is unarguably key to new device technologies. It would link strongly and coordinate with other regional partners, including London Centre for Nanotechnology and the National Physical Laboratory, providing a unique resource.

  These examples serve to illustrate that the major central facilities of ISIS and Diamond are not only jewels in the crown of UK science, but also serve to promote (through their international excellence) the wider health of scientific disciplines and the regional and national economy. The synergies between these central facilities and universities are likely to be of crucial future importance, and we urge that they are protected at all costs.

February 2008

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