Science matters - we use it to develop state-of-the-art solutions to everyday issues. If you’ve ever wondered what science has done for you, we’ve just published our impact report, so here’s just a small taste of the problems we’ve been tackling on your behalf over the last year.
There are 10,000 people waiting for a liver transplant, in the EU alone. The Electrospinning Company is an STFC spin out, formed in 2010. They manufacture and sell tiny scaffolds – thinner than a human hair – that support the growth of cells in the body. This work has applications both in regenerative medicine and drug discovery, and in 2012 the company became part of a consortium (supported by the European Commission) to fabricate ‘Re-Liver’. The aptly named Re-Liver mimics a real liver and will help in the development of new drugs to target liver disease. They’re working towards getting people off the waiting list and back to a healthier life.
We hear a lot about food waste – 7 million tonnes are produced every year in the UK. The food we throw away hurts our wallets and the environment. There are simple ways for companies and individuals alike to reduce their food waste, but giving products longer shelf lives could also be part of the solution. Although it sounds unlikely, astrophysics research supported by STFC has led to a new concept in food safety – a plasma device that generates ozone inside a sealed container. Ozone is a powerful disinfectant, and this device provides a new way to make food safe for consumption, and to prolong its shelf life. Anacail was spun-out of Glasgow University in 2011 to commercialise the device, and is currently being targeted at food packaging companies. They’re working on ensuring that more of our precious foods ends up in our stomachs, not bins.
Our science inspires. The high profile of astronomers and physicists such as Brian Cox, as well as the media coverage of the search for the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider, is widely regarded as the reason for a 7% increase in application to physics and astronomy degree courses in 2012/13. This is on top of a 25% increase in the preceding two years, against an overall decline in applications of 13%. Students want to study science, and we want new scientists – they’re good for the UK economy, and help to keep us at the cutting-edge. We’re working on inspiring as many people as possible – in 2013 two million of you took part in our face-to-face activities.
2013 was also the year when British scientist Peter Higgs won a Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on the Higgs boson, discovered at CERN in 2012. Technology from CERN, including the world wide web, benefits the UK economy by more than £100 billion every year. Our scientists have played a pioneering role in the development of the UK’s space, internet and computer animation industries – worth over £500 billion to the UK economy every year. We’re also working on new, non-invasive ways to do breast cancer biopsies that could save the NHS up to £20 million every year.
Creating jobs and bringing economic benefits. Raising the international profile of the UK and training the next generation of world class scientists. Researching solutions to security issues and environmental problems, finding new ways to diagnose and treat disease. Furthering our fundamental understanding of our planet and our Universe. These are just a few of the things our science does every day – for the economy, for society, for you.
At this time of year we issue our annual Impact Report, which is a detailed look at what we’ve been up to in the last twelve months and at some of the science we’ve spent your money on. To read more about our World Class Research, World Class Innovation and World Class Skills, download your copy of the STFC Impact Report 2013.