Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Higgs space tech centre to be built in Edinburgh

The Higgs Centre for Innovation
Image caption The Higgs Centre for Innovation is in addition to an extension of the Higgs centre for research planned by Edinburgh University

A new £11m space technology centre named after particle scientist Peter Higgs is to be built in Edinburgh.

News of the Higgs Centre for Innovation was announced by Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn statement.

He said it was appropriately timed in the week Prof Higgs travels to Stockholm to collect his Nobel Prize.

It will be built at the city's Royal Observatory site and paid for by the UK Treasury.

The Higgs Centre for Innovation, due to open in 2016, will be constructed on the site of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC) operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) at the Royal Observatory.

It will focus on "big data", large-scale computer processing, and space, two of the most promising technologies of the future, according to the government.

As well as a team of scientists and students, the centre will house up to 12 small businesses.

Prof Higgs, who spent his career at Edinburgh University, was this year awarded a share of the Nobel Prize in Physics for his prediction almost half a century ago of the Higgs boson, a theoretical subatomic particle responsible for mass.

In July last year scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider atom smashing machine near Geneva confirmed the existence of what appeared to be a Higgs particle.

Prof Higgs, 84, said: "This support from the Treasury and the STFC will create an environment in which future generations of scientists from around the world can share and develop ideas in theoretical physics."

Positive impact

The UK ATC, where the new innovation centre will be based, specialises in developing equipment and software for astronomical observatories, including some of the world's biggest telescopes.

It also conducts its own research and manages collaborations with universities, institutes and companies at home and abroad.

A capital investment from the Treasury of £10.7m will be used to build the Higgs Centre for Innovation, which is to receive operational funding of £2m from the STFC over a period of five years.

Prof John Womersley, chief executive of the STFC, said: "Particle physics, astronomy and space science all address one of the biggest questions in science, what is the universe made of.

"The Higgs Centre for Innovation will significantly increase the positive impact that arises from fundamental research like this, both in job creation and economic opportunities and growth in the UK."

Prof Sir Timothy O'Shea, Edinburgh University principal, said: "We very much welcome this strategic support.

"It provides an excellent opportunity to integrate technological developments, championed by world class researchers, with business incubation and positive economic impact.

"We look forward to working with all partners in this new forum for world quality research and discoveries."

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