New report reveals far-reaching impact of leading research facility

ISIS infographic

ISIS infographic
(Credit: STFC)

12 April 2017

From providing a top-class research facility to training the next generation of scientists and engineers, the UK’s world-leading neutron and muon beam source ISIS has had a far-reaching impact on the economy of the UK and worldwide since it first became operational more than 30 years ago.

Estimates suggest ISIS has already paid for itself more than twice over – the facility will generate at least £1.4billion in economic impact thanks to past or current projects, and projections suggest it will generate a further £1.4billion by 2030. But these estimates are conservative and in reality, these figures are likely to be even higher.

Run by STFC and part of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, ISIS has become one of the UK’s major scientific achievements. The facility was originally expected to have an operation life of 20 years, but its resounding success has led to further government investment and ongoing refurbishment, with hopes of extending the life of ISIS to at least 2030.

ISIS nurtures scientific and technical talent in the UK the value of which is estimated to have been worth £30million to the UK economy, and provides ‘on-the-job’ training to 500-800 early career researchers each year, who go on to work in academia and industry.

Throughout its lifetime, ISIS has been a world leader in the field of neutron scattering and has attracted researchers from across the world, as highlighted in the Impact Report published today. The report outlines the economic and social impact of the facility since it began operations in 1984.

Professor Robert McGreevy, Director of ISIS, said: “This report clearly shows that ISIS has made a major contribution to the UK’s reputation as a world leader in science and research. But it’s difficult to measure the economic impact of such a facility, because it supports a vast range of research across academia and industry. However, this report shows that, even using the most conservative estimates, ISIS has provided vital stimulation to the economy, as well as underpinning the world-class research and skills on which the UK’s future depends.”

ISIS has a staff of around 400 people and hosts around 1,000 individual scientific visitors from academia and industry each year, carrying out more than 700 experiments.

As the first major facility of its kind in the world, ISIS has played a critical role in demonstrating the feasibility and benefits of spallation sources. This has secured its highly regarded international reputation and has changed the global landscape, with a number of new neutron sources being built across the world following ISIS success. Between 1987 and 2009, ISIS received £56 million in international contributions, underlining the attraction of the facility and the UK for international researchers.

The facility also has long-established industrial links with more than 100 companies including household names such as Rolls-Royce, Unilever, Airbus and BP. Over the past 30 years, UK and global industries have benefited directly with their research using ISIS supporting advances in a wide range of products.

Industrial products developed thanks to analysis undertaken at the ISIS neutron facility have included catalysts, structural components of aeroplanes, personal care products and lubricants to name but a few. ISIS users and staff have also generated intellectual property including spin-outs, patents and licences.

Academics using ISIS have produced more than 10,000 publications in physics, chemistry, material science, biochemistry and engineering, for applications including clean energy, the environment, nanotechnology, materials engineering and healthcare. For example, developing a new method of cleft palate treatment, or identifying better solutions for waste water treatment, or researching ways to counteract antibiotic resistance.

Dr Andrew Taylor, Executive Director of National Laboratories, said: “Since it first started operating, ISIS has been a world-leading facility which encourages innovative research and fosters valuable international relationships.

“It has had a substantial long-term impact, not least in proving the viability of accelerator-based neutron facilities. As a result of its success, ISIS has been seen to deliver major social and economic benefits for the UK and worldwide.”

Read more about the ISIS Lifetime Impact Report.

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000