Three projects are to receive £290m in UK government funding in a drive for innovation, growth and job creation in the UK’s high performing science sector.
Investment in the projects – the European Spallation Source (£165m), the Square Kilometre Array (£100m), and ESA’s PLATO mission (£25m) – forms part of the government’s long term economic plan and are expected to generate £150m annually for the economy.
Speaking ahead of today’s announcement science minister David Willetts said: ‘Investment in science is a crucial part of this government’s long-term economic plan. It’s about investing in our future, helping grow new industries and create more jobs – and that will mean more financial security for people across the country.’
The European Spallation Source (ESS) in Sweden will be the world’s biggest microscope, enabling UK scientists to work at the cutting edge of a broad range of science disciplines underpinned by material science, including designing computing chips, batteries and pharmaceuticals, and complementing the existing ISIS source at Harwell.
The Square Kilometre Array will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the world producing 10 times the current global traffic of the internet. British scientists are already helping to develop the central computer which will read the huge volume of new data, meaning this project could lead to faster smartphones and increased internet speeds across the UK . According to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) the global market for data analysis is also expected to be worth £31bn by 2016.
ESA’s PLATO (Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) mission will address two key themes of Cosmic Vision: what are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life, and how does the Solar System work? PLATO will monitor relatively nearby stars, searching for tiny, regular dips in brightness as their planets transit in front of them, temporarily blocking out a small fraction of the starlight. By using 34 separate small telescopes and cameras, PLATO will search for planets around up to a million stars spread over half of the sky. It will also investigate seismic activity in the stars, enabling a precise characterisation of the host sun of each planet discovered, including its mass, radius and age.