STFC's scientific, social and economic impact

Technology Highlights brochure

Technology underpins much of the work undertaken by STFC. The Technology Department provides a wide range of capabilities to support the programme and has a presence on STFC’s three major sites: the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Daresbury Laboratory, and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh. The Technology Highlight Brochures illustrates some of the exciting projects recently undertaken.

A new view of the Universe brochure

From digital cameras to global positioning systems (GPS), technologies developed for astronomy have helped to shape the world around us.

The Royal Astronomical Society has produced a booklet, supported by STFC, which sets out through a series of articles and case studies just some of the ways in which astronomy has had an impact on wider society.

Science matters

STFC’s knowledge, skills, facilities and resources benefits UK citizens, the economy and society. This impact is considerable – from knowledge about the fundamental nature of the Universe to designing new drugs, mapping the brain, providing highly skilled training and creating new businesses.

Science addressing the grand challenges

STFC is playing a key role in helping society to address the global challenges it faces in energy, security, environment and healthcare. STFC’s science, technology and research is finding new and innovative ways to address these issues.

World-class research, innovation and skills makes the difference

Supporting world class research, innovation and skills are core functions of STFC. STFC is delivering its vision of maximising the impact of our knowledge, skills, facilities and resources for the benefit of the UK and its people through its support of curiosity-driven and application-led research.

Everyday lives improved by 50 years of lasers (PDF - 2829kB - link opens in a new window)

May 2010 marked the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser (PDF - 490kB - link opens in a new window). During that time lasers have impacted almost every aspect of life - from medicine to manufacturing, from communications to measurement and from research and analysis to entertainment.

Big science supporting small business

Carrying out research and development can be very costly for new or growing businesses, especially at the proof of concept stage.

Cobalt Light Systems

It takes talent, vision, commitment and an inventive mind to see light at the end of a research tunnel and few people can predict the wider long-term outcomes and benefits.

Some examples of STFC's scientific, social and economic impact are given in the following examples, taken from our 2008-09 Annual Report.

An Astronomical First for Asteroids

Imagine an 80 tonne asteroid hurtling towards the Earth at 30,000 mph. It may sound like science fiction but in October 2008 this scenario was a potentially dangerous reality.

Big Bang Day

10th September 2008 became Big Bang Day on BBC Radio 4 when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) inspired an entire day’s programming.

Dark hearts of hidden galaxies revealed

Astronomers from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands are peering into the dark hearts of bright galaxies to learn more about how our own Universe formed.

Delivering for the UK: Economic Impact

STFC has an impressive track record of research excellence through its academic communities and in-house research scientists and engineers. Our world-leading science and technology is fundamental to the delivery of Economic Impact (EI) for the UK.

Eyes Open

STFC’s Space Science Department at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) has built instruments for three space missions, two already launched, to enable research into the Earth, Moon and Sun.

Farewell Synchrotron

In August 2008, scientists paid tribute to the Synchrotron Radiation Source (SRS) at the Daresbury Laboratory. The world’s first second-generation synchrotron, SRS operated for 28 years and produced two million hours of science.

Skills for Small Businesses

Small and medium sized businesses across South East England are benefiting from highly skilled training thanks to STFC’s Skills for Technology project.

The Science and Technology Gateway Centres

Solutions to the scientific and technical challenges of the 21st century are increasingly found by working with, rather than just within, research laboratories.

A Spin-out Sense Green Success

A sensor that can withstand hostile environments, help improve the efficiency of gas turbines used in aircraft engines and power stations, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been developed by STFC spin-out Oxsensis.

Photosynthesis In a Flash

Photosynthesis powers almost all of life but attempts to harness this process are yet to match nature’s design. Plants, which convert sunlight into chemical and electrical energy, are significantly more efficient than affordable solar cells.

International Year of Astronomy

One in five secondary schools now has a window into space after 1,000 schools received a free telescope during the International Year of Astronomy (IYA).

Investing in People

Scientific research is now central to the future prospects for our society, for driving forward the economy, dealing with global threats to security and the environment, enhancing the quality of life and in making the UK an attractive place to live, and invest.

ISIS broadens its reach

ISIS is one of the world’s leading sources of neutrons and muons. These subatomic particles can penetrate matter, pinpoint the location of atoms and determine the structure of materials.

Mapping the Brain

Each year 10,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This neurological condition causes tremors, slowness of movement and stiff muscles, making it difficult to walk, write or talk.

Driving forwards materials chemistry

The Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham, opened the new Knowledge Centre for Materials Chemistry (KCMC) at the STFC Daresbury Laboratory.

New ESA Centre in the United Kingdom

A step towards the creation of a new European Space Agency (ESA) research centre in the United Kingdom was taken in November 2008 with an agreement made at the ESA Ministerial Council in The Hague.

Proteins for Better Health

A team of UK scientists has made an important development that will help the design of new drugs for many conditions.

Environmental Science: shaping European regulation with e-Science and UK expertise

The environment plays a crucial role in the UK economy. Climate change, soil erosion and the depletion of marine stocks threaten jobs, employment and economic growth.

Skills for the World

More than 600 universities across Europe rely on STFC’s Microelectronics Support Centre (MSC). The centre supplies and supports the commercial design tool software used by microelectronics design engineers at an affordable price.

Examining the Exotic

Nuclear physics is at the heart of all science. “The atomic nucleus is responsible for more than 99.9% of the mass of all the matter we can see,” said Professor Paddy Regan from the University of Surrey.

Space Observatories Readied for Twin Launch

UK scientists and industry were major contributors to two outstanding space telescopes – the Herschel Space Observatory and the Planck satellite.

Underground Secrets of the Upper Atmosphere

UK scientists in a disused iron mine in Minnesota have discovered that cosmic rays can detect sudden changes in the upper atmosphere.

A Magnificent VISTA into Space

A world-leading, UK-built telescope, on a mountain-top in Chile, is preparing to survey the Southern sky.

Watching Chemistry - As It Happens

Imagine trying to examine something in a highly inflammable hydrogen atmosphere and then turning up the heat.

World's Biggest Scientific Experiment

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the most powerful particle accelerator ever built, successfully circulated its first beam on 10th September 2008.

Page last updated: 27 September 2010 by Julia Maddock