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3 minute read

Government to invest £81m in laser research centre

A new advanced imaging centre, which will use super-bright lasers to produce state-of-the-art 3D X-rays in just 40 seconds, is set to receive an £81m government support boost.

The investment will help speed up the development of new medical treatments, bring down the cost of manufacturing, and identify design improvements. This could benefit applications in a wide range of sectors including pharmaceuticals, airplane wings, batteries for electric vehicles or even artificial organs.

This innovative technology will be available to UK businesses at the new Extreme Photonics Applications Centre. Opening in 2024, at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, the new centre will bring together industrial, scientific and defence industries so that they can exploit its world-leading capabilities.

The £81m investment will help businesses to speed up development of high-value products and help avoid costly manufacturing errors / Picture: Getty/iStock


These plans come as the UN marks International Women and Girls in Science Day, which aims to encourage women and girls to pursue a career and subjects relating to science and technology.

The new national research centre will build on the work undertaken by 2018 Physics Nobel Prize Winner, and third woman in history to receive this accolade, Donna Strickland – alongside Arthur Ashkin and Gerard Mourou. Her work to develop high-intensity ultrashort pulses of light beams transformed whole sectors including medicine technology and is now a common technique in laser surgery, among other disciplines.

Science Minister, Chris Skidmore, said: “The launch of the £81m advanced imaging centre will enhance the UK’s leading role in laser technology, including revolutionising medical imaging.

“I’m especially delighted to be launching the centre with Physics Nobel Prize winner Donna Strickland – only the third woman in history to achieve this award – on International Day of Women and Girls in Science.”

Physics Nobel Prize Winner, Donna Strickland, added: “Science education helps develop skills in problem solving and critical thinking necessary to address some of the world’s biggest challenges. When we encourage girls and women to engage with science, they bring more diversity to science and fresh perspectives that can only help in finding innovative solutions.”

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, concluded: “From informing the design of next generation aerodynamic aircraft components to examining 3D images of human bones, the new Extreme Photonic Applications Centre has applications across many sectors of the economy.

“This technology will create advances in the science and understanding of materials imaging. UKRI will work with a range of industry partners to realise its potential.”

Funding is provided through the government’s £830m Strategic Priorities Fund, with additional investment from the Ministry of Defence, and forms part of the commitment to significantly boost research and development funding across every part of the UK.

The Strategic Priorities Fund supports high-quality discipline research and development priorities, with investment also going towards autonomous systems and national collections.

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