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Report reveals impact of over £1.8 billion on UK science and economy by Diamond Light Source

By Karolina Skinner
26 May 2021
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A new study of Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron funded by STFC, shows the facility has had an impact worth nearly £2 billion since 2007.

The study by Technopolis and Diamond estimates a cumulative monetised impact of at least £1.8 billion from the UK’s synchrotron, based at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, reflecting very favourably with the £1.2b investment made in the facility to date.

Diamond Light SourceThe study, published on 26 May, set out to measure and demonstrate Diamond’s scientific, technological, societal, and economic benefits. To launch the report, Diamond is hosting a webinar to share the findings showing the significant impact achieved to date.

Chief executive of Diamond, Professor Andrew Harrison OBE, commented: “Diamond’s mission is to keep the UK at the forefront of scientific research. We do this by providing our users in academia and industry access to our state-of-the-art facilities enabling them to fulfil their research goals across a wide variety of scientific disciplines. This report illustrates the fantastic return on investment and brilliant science being achieved by our 14,000-strong user community who are tackling some of the most challenging scientific questions of the 21st century. We are so grateful to our funding agencies UKRI’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Wellcome Trust for their trust and ongoing support.”

Diamond was set-up as an independent not-for-profit company through a joint venture, between the UKRI’s STFC and one of the world’s largest biomedical charities, the Wellcome Trust – each respectively owning 86% and 14% of the shareholding. Highlights from the report include:

  • Research output – 9,600 articles, resulting in a cumulative impact to date of £677 million in terms of the production of research output – based on the opportunity cost of time spent developing publications based on data collected on the facility’s instruments and assuming that the wage of researchers reflects the values of their time to society.
  • Patents – collectively valued at £10.2b (in 2018 prices). The exact criticality of Diamond in each case is unknown – but some proportion of this considerable sum can be ‘claimed’ by Diamond. A conservative estimate is around 1%, meaning Diamond’s contribution could be worth at least £103m.
  • The study also developed 28 case-studies of breakthrough science achieved at Diamond from the plastic degrading enzyme to the new synthetic vaccine against the Foot-and-Mouth disease virus, as well as academic and industrial use of Diamond, and suppliers of the facility.
  • Software and applications – An estimated £51.3m valuation for the software and applications produced at Diamond.
  • Training – £8.8m in training provided through Diamond (for free), based on 19,191 days of training across 7,668 attendees in the past five years and commercial rates for similar courses.
  • Wider societal benefits – 80,000 visitors reached to date through a programme of engagement supporting the UK Skills’ agenda in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Plus, increased awareness of the value of STEM subjects to everyday lives through many news articles and outreach activities.

Professor Mark Thomson, executive chair of STFC, said: “Diamond is an asset to STFC’s world-leading science estate at RAL. With support from STFC, the Diamond research facility continues to deliver both economic growth and research impact on behalf of the UK. It brings together the best of British science, as well as fostering multi-disciplinary research activity with a wide range of global collaborators. Diamond continues to deliver against real-world challenges, with some of their recent successes including enhancing our understanding of the Covid-19 virus.”

The Launch Webinar will be chaired by Sandra Ribeiro, chair of lightsources.org. Attendees will be given insight into the methodology of the study from the team involved from both Diamond and Technopolis, as well as a chance to hear the perspectives from our stakeholders at UKRI and the Wellcome Trust on impact and evaluation. In addition, four key users will give ignite talks on how Diamond has impacted on their scientific research:

  • Professor John McGeehan, University of Portsmouth – Developing plastic degrading enzyme
  • Professor Katherine Morris, University of Manchester – Impact on nuclear industry
  • Professor Sir Dave Stuart, University of Oxford – Therapy (drug and vaccine) design, FMDV
  • Professor Dave Rugg, formerly Rolls-Royce – Competitive edge provided by imaging engineering components.

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