SUPA researchers to benefit from £48 million investment

SUPA researchers to benefit from £48 million investment

Eight Scottish universities – including the University of Aberdeen - are to share almost £50 million to grow their physics research capabilities in a move which will cement the nation’s claim to be a global leader in scientific research and discovery.

The Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council (SFC) and the participating universities have confirmed funding of £48 million for the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA), the pooling arrangement of eight Scottish universities committed to sharing resource and expertise in physics research. 

This is the second investment in SUPA which was set up in 2004.  The cash will help fund major developments in Scotland’s research infrastructure and personnel.  These will include the setting up of a unique centre to develop and exploit laser-driven plasma accelerators* at the University of Strathclyde, new labs and equipment at the University of St Andrews, and the establishment of a large-scale, pan-Scottish Physics and Life Sciences research team.

The universities and leading Scottish scientists say the investment will have multiple spin-out benefits for Scotland well beyond the confines of pure physics research.  Medical research and technology, industrial and commercial activity, the higher education sector and the NHS are all expected to benefit.

The SUPA bid is intended to give the country’s physics research capabilities a profile and critical mass which will draw world-leading scientists to Scotland and build the nation’s reputation as a leader in international science.

Mark Batho, Chief Executive of SFC, said: “Research pooling has been successful in bringing universities together to share their vast wealth of knowledge and experience. 

“The initial investment SFC and the universities made in SUPA has given physics researchers the opportunity to carry out ground-breaking research on a bigger scale by combining their effort, as well as showcasing their talent to the rest of the world.  This new investment will allow SUPA to build upon the successful platform they have established and continue to carry out their research in well-resourced, quality facilities with quality people.”

Dr Louise Richardson, Principal of the University of St Andrews, said: “SUPA is the single largest physics alliance in the United Kingdom and has proved that through collaboration and shared expertise, Scotland has a compelling claim to be at the leading edge of global research and discovery. I believe that this is a hugely positive and exciting step for Scottish science and an opportunity to set new international benchmarks for the quality, ambition and vision of our research portfolio.”

Professor Jim McDonald, Principal of the University of Strathclyde, said: “Physics research in Scotland plays a central role in shaping innovative technology which meets and responds to the demands of a rapidly changing world.

“Strathclyde is proud to be playing a prominent role in a collaborative research pooling programme which sets such high standards.  The plasma accelerator project is just one example of the dynamic research which we and our colleagues in SUPA will use to extend the possibilities of medicine and machinery.”  

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop added: “Scotland’s universities have a worldwide reputation for excellence in research.

“We need to help them grow that expertise, while also encouraging different institutions to work together to better share their knowledge with each other and with Scotland’s business community to help our economy grow and recover from the current downturn.

“This investment will help support those efforts and help us strengthen Scotland’s claim as a world leader in research and development, while also delivering practical benefits for the NHS and medical world.”

Since its launch in 2004, the pooling partners have established the SUPA Graduate School, attracted high-quality academic staff from around the world to Scotland, increased the volume of physics research in Scotland, and greatly enhanced the quality of Research Assessment Exercise submissions from physics researchers.