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From lab to living room: Making world class science a commercial reality


World class science results from UK particle physicists, astronomers and space scientists are destined for wider commercial use following the announcement today (24th January 2006) of extra Government funds to help them turn their research into commercial reality.

The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) has been awarded £893,000 in the third round of the Government’s Public Sector Exploitation fund (PSRE) to fund knowledge transfer emerging from the large international research organisations - CERN, European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

This increased funding will enable PPARC to build on work carried out as a result of the awards made under the scheme in previous rounds - particularly with regard to the work at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva. Technologies developed for particle physics have a history of finding uses in other sectors, in particular the healthcare industry. As a member state of CERN the UK has potential to access all the cutting-edge technologies being developed including advanced computing and data handling, high speed and high sensitivity photon and particle detection and accelerator technologies. This is set to be a growth area when the world’s most powerful detector, the Large Hadron Collider comes into operation in 2007.

This is the first time, under this funding scheme, that PPARC has been awarded funds to support similar activities with the ESO and ESA. As a member state of ESO UK astronomers have access to a suite of world class astronomical facilities including the Very Large Telescope in Chile.

The development of new state of the art optics for astronomy has led to spin offs including the ophthalmic imaging of the retina and the next generation of contact lenses.

Similarly, with regard to space science, UK scientists and engineers are playing are developing key technologies in a number of ESA space missions, leading to particular areas of expertise including the miniaturisation of instrumentation. UK involvement in Aurora, ESA’s planetary exploration programme, will help to strengthen the development of further technologies with wider application across a variety of sectors.

PPARC’s Industry Coordinator Nathan Hill explains "There’s a tremendous wealth of technology developed as a result of our participation in international projects. The new award will allow us to focus additional efforts on mobilising this technology for the benefit of industry sectors such as aerospace, healthcare, Information Technology and financial services. All of these industries have benefited from the leading-edge requirements placed on technology in the space science, astronomy and particle physics programmes. The award will enable us to research the market potential of technologies and disseminate this information to companies through a series of industry briefings and visits"’.

Professor Keith Mason, Chief Executive Officer of PPARC said, “The increased funding awarded to PPARC will enable us to assist our world class scientists to exploit their research further benefiting both UK science and industry. It will help to demonstrate how our involvement in international research programmes can reap benefits not only for the scientific community but for the person on the street. Many common technologies that we take for granted have their roots in public sector research.”

The Public Sector Research Exploitation fund was set up to help public sector organisations to market their research and to support the very early stages of business formation from ideas emerging out of research in the public sector science base.

A DTI release on the awards made during this round can be found at

Julia Maddock | alfa
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