Particle physics laboratory

Daresbury Laboratory turns 60 – looking back on six decades of discoveries

The instantly recognizable tower top of the Daresbury Laboratory. (Jason Roberts/Echo of Liverpool)

The Daresbury Laboratory celebrates 60 years at the forefront of science as it looks back on a legacy of world-leading research and breaks new frontiers of discovery.

Immediately recognizable for its tower overlooking the treetops of semi-rural North Cheshire and built in the 1970s, the laboratory opened in 1962 and since then the scope of its expertise has widened from nuclear physics to include areas such as supercomputing, artificial intelligence (AI).

His discoveries have been deployed in the further development of cancer treatments, clean fuels and energy, as well as contributing to powerful global projects such as the CERN particle accelerator in Switzerland.

Based at Sci-Tech Daresbury, the lab is on a mission to push the boundaries of mainstream science and collaboration.

Twinkling at the heart of the site’s success is the Synchrotron Light Source (SRS), which contributed to two Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, and which Sci-Tech has described as “one of the most pioneering scientific inventions of its time.”

Generating light billions of times brighter than the sun, the SRS particle accelerator has revealed the structure of atoms and molecules inside materials, enabling research into diseases such as HIV and heart disease. motor neuron.

Research into the structure of foot-and-mouth disease virus led to the development of a vaccine and was the first animal virus structure to be determined in Europe.

Since its closure in 2008, the impact of the SRS has continued to be significant, leading to the development of many similar facilities around the world, of which there are now at least 70, with technology and skills originating in Daresbury still in use.

Researchers using the Scienta Esca 300 spectrometer at the Daresbury laboratory in 2003.

The Daresbury Laboratory also overcame the threat of closure in its time, with a campaign launched around the turn of the millennium ultimately proving successful in preventing it from closing and the country’s nuclear physics research being hoarded in southern England.

Ultimately, it bounced back to thrive like never before.

In 2022, its scientists, engineers and technicians continue to play a key role in the design and construction of the latest generations of particle accelerators around the world.

These include the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, as well as a host of groundbreaking facilities currently under construction in the United States and Europe.

Daresbury is also home to CLARA, a one-of-a-kind particle accelerator designed to develop, test and advance accelerator technologies of the future.

A steam train speeds past during the construction of the Daresbury Laboratory.

More recently, it has enabled researchers to carry out experiments that cannot be carried out anywhere else in the UK, including in the development of proton imaging technologies for cancer detection and the next generations of radiotherapy to target tumours. difficult to treat.

The site continues to extend its status as a leading scientific asset for the Borough of Halton and the wider City of Liverpool region, as well as for the country as a whole.

Sci-Tech Daresbury is overseen by the government’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and collaborations include universities and companies such as IBM.

Paul Vernon, Head of Daresbury Laboratory at STFC, said: “It is with great pride that I look back on the success of 60 years of Daresbury Laboratory and how it has helped to improve our world in so many ways.

“Every day incredible research is happening here that has the potential to improve our lives.

“We remain as committed today as ever to supporting research excellence and providing access to world-class research facilities and expertise to solve real-world challenges.”

Discoveries from the early days of the SRS led to the establishment of the internationally renowned Scientific Computing Department at Daresbury, and later the opening of the Hartree Center in 2012.

Home to some of the UK’s most advanced technologies in computing, data science and artificial intelligence, the Hartree Center is one of the UK’s only supercomputing centers dedicated to industrial applications.

Companies can access specialized expertise and supercomputers that are normally only available to universities and large-scale industry, reducing product development time and cost.

Among its many projects, the Hartree Center is collaborating with the UK Atomic Energy Association (UKAEA) to develop fusion technologies for a low-carbon future using supercomputers and AI.

A scientist working on the Synchrotron Radiation Source (SRS) at Daresbury Laboratory before the SRS closed in 2008.

The Hartree National Center for Digital Innovation (HNCDI), a recently launched £210m collaboration with IBM, enables companies large and small to discover how the latest artificial intelligence and quantum computing technologies could benefit to their business.

Putting the UK at the forefront of AI and digital innovation requires not only the latest supercomputing technologies, but also infrastructure and data security requirements.

To support this, the planning and preparation work is now complete and ready for the start of construction of a state-of-the-art 33,000 square foot supercomputing center.

Kate Royse, Director of STFC at the Hartree Centre, said: “The Hartree Center is committed to providing an environment where UK science and business can be at the forefront of the latest digital technologies, such as AI and computing. quantum.

“These technologies have the real potential to revolutionize our lives and could help us rethink the way we solve the world’s problems, from climate change to security.

Seen through snowy fields in 2009. (Stuart Bogg/Runcorn Weekly News)

“With our support, companies can explore these technologies at lower risk for increased productivity and competitiveness.

“As we also celebrate 10 years of the Hartree Centre, there has never been a more exciting time to work in this field, and I look forward to seeing what the next decade has in store.”

The wider Sci-Tech Daresbury Campus opened as the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus in 2006 as a joint venture between STFC, property developer Langtree and Halton Borough Council, with the aim of integrate science, technology and world-class business enterprises to benefit the economy and support 10,000 jobs by 2030.

Home to more than 150 technology companies, the businesses on site range from pioneering high-tech start-ups to large international corporations such as IBM Research, Hitachi Hi-Tech Europe and Croda.

John Downs of Langtree, then Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and David Parr, chief executive of Halton Borough Council at the time, in 2011. (Jason Roberts/Liverpool Echo)

Sci-Tech Daresbury said its commitment to small businesses in their vital role in the health of the UK economy is “stronger than ever”, whether through business incubation schemes, or by accessing state-of-the-art laboratories or offices, in order to succeed and grow.

Recently, this has been reinforced by the creation of three industrial clusters, dedicated to supporting HealthTec, Space and Digital companies, leading to more successful start-ups than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

A campus spokeswoman said key to that support is a “home for life” ethos and principles that allow businesses to realize their ambitions on campus, with businesses offering the technical support, world-class facilities and access to local and national networks to become pioneers in their chosen field.

Lord Drayson, Minister for Science and Innovation, Labour, launches a Hospitals and Science Innovation project at SIC Daresbury in 2009.

John Downes, Managing Director of Langtree and Director of Sci-Tech Daresbury, said: “I would like to congratulate the Daresbury Laboratory on 60 years of pioneering and inspiring science and innovation.

“The groundbreaking work undertaken with the SRS has set a benchmark for what can be achieved on our campus, and I am very proud that the companies based at Sci-Tech Daresbury are keeping this legacy alive today by providing pioneering work in a range of industries to improve the world around us while creating tangible economic benefits for the Liverpool City region.

Daresbury Laboratory Synchrotron Light Source (SRS), date unknown.

As a major employer in the area for 60 years, the Daresbury Lab said it places great importance on providing opportunities and training for future generations, work placements and an apprenticeship program playing a key role in securing the skills needed to support ongoing job creation. and campus growth, with nearly 60 on-site apprentices working in a range of roles.

Paul Vernon said: “The range of skills and talents needed for the UK to thrive as an innovation nation is huge and under-recognized.

“People are our opportunity, and investing in talented young people will unleash the region’s full potential.

“As a proud partner of Sci-Tech Daresbury, we are more committed than ever to putting learning and training at the heart of our business.

The Atlas detector in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. (PENNSYLVANIA)

“With nearly 60 apprentices in various positions, our apprenticeship program continues to grow.

“Celebrating our 60th anniversary is a very proud moment for all of us here at the Daresbury Laboratory.

“I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to its growth, many of whom have dedicated their entire careers to Daresbury.

“I look forward to our next 60 years, celebrating the facility’s continued successes, made possible by the dedicated staff, now and in the future.”

The Daresbury Laboratory is located between the towns of Runcorn and Warrington, Cheshire, and is within the Borough of Halton, which is part of the Liverpool City region.

Read more Halton news here.