LONDON Research Councils UK (RCUK) has released its Large Facilities Roadmap which includes details of the anticipated need for research over the next 10-15 years as well as some well known large facilities already under construction.
The document is designed to help RCUK and the Office of Science and Technology plan and prioritise the funding of the large-scale projects needed to maintain access for U.K. researchers to cutting-edge facilities, both in the UK and overseas. It will also be used to help in the allocation of the Office of Science and Technology’s Large Facilities Capital Fund.
The U.K. currently spends around £230 million of public funds each year on capital expenditure for large facilities projects. The Large Facilities Capital Fund budget is approximately £100 million per annum. Inclusion of a project on the Roadmap does not guarantee funding from either Research Councils or OST via the Large Facilities Capital Fund. Inevitably, says the report, there are more potential large facilities projects than available public funding.
Professor John Wood, Chief Executive of the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC), said, “The Large Facilities Roadmap is a key part of RCUK’s commitment to make the UK the most attractive place in the world for research and innovation. To achieve this aim the UK needs to ensure the continued provision of first-class research and development infrastructure. The roadmap gives us the basis to plan and prioritise the need for underpinning facilities to maintain the UK research community’s access to world leading research facilities.”
The Roadmap identifies the large facilities the Research Councils see as important in enabling it to meet its commitment to deliver world-class research and development capabilities for the UK. RCUK’s commitments to this, as outlined in the Government's 10 year framework for science and innovation, are available in the RCUK Delivery Plan. RCUK will be renewing the roadmap in 2007 to take into account changing priorities and new discoveries.
Included in the 20 projects proposed in the roadmap is one to build a mini-fab for nanotechnology, based around a set of 6-8 cluster tools, designed to provide a flexible single wafer processing and integration with other nanotechnologies and existing research infrastructure around the U.K. The facility would have to be able to accommodate the advanced fabrication of logic circuits, albeit quite slowly by manufacturing standards but acceptable for one-offs or low volume inherent in leading edge research. Strategic partnerships with industry will be sought where this is appropriate and necessary to ensure compatibility with user needs and potential markets.
The proposed new facility would need a capital investment of circa £50 million with an annual operational budget of around £5 million. This roadmap says that this will provide the infrastructure needed to become internationally competitive in the many interdisciplinary fields that intersect nanotechnology as well as nanoelectronics itself.
The Large Facilities Capital Fund is a centrally held DTI fund, managed by OST, to which Research Councils can bid to support UK participation in large facilities projects.
RCUK is the partnership between the UK's eight Research Councils and was created to increase the collective visibility, leadership and policy influence of the Research Councils; to stimulate multi-disciplinary research that encourages collaboration; to provide a single focus for collective dialogue with stakeholders and to encourage greater harmonisation of internal operations.