Aberdeen marine scientists net major research funding

Aberdeen marine scientists net major research funding

The University of Aberdeen’s £4.2million bid towards the development of a major research project has been successful, the Government and Wellcome Trust announced today (Tuesday, December 7).

The funding will be awarded from the Joint Infrastructure Fund (JIF), a one-off collaborative initiative between the Government and the Wellcome Trust announced last year to improve the science infrastructure in the British higher education and research institutions.

The announcement was made this morning at a press conference in London in the presence of Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Steven Byers.

The University submitted its £4.2million application for the funding of a programme known as Autonomous Marine Environmental Research Stations (AutoMERS) in a joint proposal with the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) CCMS-Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory and the Universities of Bristol and St Andrews.

This will establish a UK fleet of unmanned autonomous sub-sea platforms, capable of undertaking research at depths of up to 6,000metres. A substantial shore-based facility will be built at the University Environmental Field Station at Newburgh, Aberdeenshire. The base will incorporate high-pressure test tanks, a laser hologram laboratory and a data analysis complex.

A West Coast test facility will be built at the Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory (the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Centre for Coastal and Marine Sciences in collaboration with SAMS). This will allow direct access to deep water off the West Coast of Scotland.

University of Aberdeen Principal C Duncan Rice said he was absolutely delighted at the news.

“AutoMERS is an extremely important project for the University and its bidding partners in Dunstaffnage, Bristol and St Andrews. It is also an excellent example of interdisciplinary collaboration bringing together engineers and marine scientists.

“To receive such a highly competitive and sought after award highlights the scientific strengths Aberdeen University as the lead institution has in these areas.”

Professor Monty Priede, who led the Aberdeen end of the bid, said the new centre will be able attract visiting scientists and engineers from all over the world to develop and test experiments to be deployed in international research programmes.

“Together with the Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, this creates for the University of Aberdeen a world-class capability in exploring the world’s oceans. Using autonomous lander vehicles, we can go deeper than most manned submarines and stay there much longer.

“The new facilities will enable engineers and scientists to work together, creating totally novel robot vehicles and our lander vehicles will carry cameras, sonars and laser holography systems, allowing us to observe animals living as deep as 6,000 metres (3.5miles).”

Dunstaffnage Director Dr Graham Shimmield said: “This will reinforce our links with universities in advanced marine research programmes. We are very pleased with this development, which recognises unique capabilities we have in Scotland.”

More than 200 applications, with a requested sum of around £1.3billion, were received in the second round. Forty-five grants were approved giving rise to commitments of some £318million out of the total fund of £750million.

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