Large Science Facilities
What is a large science facility?
BIS and the UK Research Councils define a large science facility as one where the total investment in the build is more than £25m or 10 per cent of a Research Council's annual grant-in-aid, (whichever is less). Large Science facilities are also typically organised, managed and funded on a National, European, or International scale.
UK policy on supporting large science facilities
Maintaining access to leading edge experimental facilities is an essential part of keeping UK researchers competitive and at the forefront of their fields of research. The Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014 sets out the Government's policy on supporting large science facilities and is available on the right under related documents.
The UK’s large facilities "roadmap"
Every two years, Research Councils UK, (RCUK), a strategic partnership of the UK's Research Councils, publishes a "Road Map" showing the prospective large science facilities that the Research Councils believe are of strategic importance for UK science over the next 15 years. Each Council is responsible for entries onto the "Road Map" within its fields of expertise.
Inclusion on the Road Map implies no commitment from the UK Government, RCUK or the Research Councils to fund any particular project. Neither does inclusion imply possible contributions from any other source or type of funding. Large science facilities are funded through a number of mechanisms in the UK, and that continues to be the case.
The draft 2007 version of the Road Map was published on the RCUK web site in November 2007 and included a period of consultation where the views of UK research communities were sought which ended in January 2008. It is available from the link on the right under related documents. Previous versions of the Road Map, published in December 2005 and December 2003, are also available under related documents.
Prioritisation of large science facilities and the Large Facilities Capital Fund
RCUK initiates a prioritisation exercise every two years to highlight the strategically important large science facility projects they believe should enter construction in the short to medium term and which should be considered for funding from the BIS Large Facilities Capital Fund (LFCF). This exercise takes into account the most recent version of the Road Map, and involves the preparation of a draft prioritisation list across all disciplines, drawing on appropriate criteria.
The 2007 prioritisation exercise has been revised to take into account the findings of the NAO report, ‘Big Science: Public investment in large science facilities’ which was published in January 2007. The selection criteria used in this process includes the following:
- Scientific impact of the project;
- Economic and societal impact of the project;
- Delivery and cost-effectiveness of the project (including funding, partnerships, risk and value for money);
- Its contribution to the international positioning of UK science and technology.
International project proposals including those featured on the ESFRI (European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructure) Road Map will be considered as part of this exercise.
This prioritisation process identifies projects for funding in the current or next Government spending review period up to approximately 5 years ahead. This stage of the exercise will, as far as is possible, identify total project costs, including capital and resource (including recurrent or operating costs).
Once a draft prioritised list is agreed by the Research Councils, it is submitted to the Director General Science and Innovation, in BIS, for consideration against the available LFCF budget. The Director General then provides advice to Ministers on which projects should be earmarked for funding from the LFCF. The results of the prioritisation exercise, as approved by Ministers, are then published by BIS.
The current prioritised list was agreed in June 2006 and is available under related documents. Final decisions on funding for specific projects from the LFCF will be announced in due course and at the relevant stage in the OGC Gateway Review process. The list of projects from the previous prioritisation round in March 2003 is also available under related documents.
NAO Report, ‘Big Science: Public Investment In Large Science Facilities
The National Audit Office, (NAO), published its report, ‘Big Science: Public investment in large scientific facilities’, in January 2007. The report made a number of recommendations relating to the planning and delivery of such facilities. A link to the report can be found under related documents.
Joint NAO/ DIUS/ RCUK project ‘handbook’
The National Audit Office (NAO), the former Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and RCUK published a joint Handbook highlighting good practice in the preparation of business cases for those projects seeking funding from the LFCF in November 2007. Large Science Facilities ‘Strengthening the Preparation of Project Proposals’ can be found on this page under external links.
Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Report, ‘Big Science: Public Investment in Large Scientific Facilities’
The Public Accounts Committee published their report on large science facilities in October 2007. A link to the report can be found under External links. The Government produced its response to the PAC’s report in February 2008, which can also be found under external links.
The OGC Gateway Review Process and the Large Facilities Capital Fund (LFCF)
All projects hoping to draw down funding from the LFCF are expected to proceed through the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) Gateway process in order to access funding. The OGC Gateway Process examines a programme or project at five critical stages in its lifecycle to provide assurance that it can successfully progress to the next stage. Further information on the OGC Gateway Process can be found under external links on the right.
These pages and the processes they describe will be regularly reviewed in the light of comments from readers, which may be sent to Ron Egginton at the following address: Ron.Egginton@bis.gsi.gov.uk