Is Daresbury the brainiest place in Britain?

PUBLISHED: 15:54 05 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:41 20 February 2013

Prof. Adrian Wander (Director of STFC’s Scientific Computing Department) with Chris Grieve of OPTIS and a giant simulation of a Bentley Mulsanne in the Hartree Visualisation Suite

Prof. Adrian Wander (Director of STFC’s Scientific Computing Department) with Chris Grieve of OPTIS and a giant simulation of a Bentley Mulsanne in the Hartree Visualisation Suite

Some call Daresbury the cleverest corner of Cheshire, if not one of the brightest bits of Britain. Scientists sit alongside business experts to bring the benefits of cutting-edge developments in science and technology

Sci-Tech Daresbury, a science and innovation campus, which is already regarded as one of Europes leading scientific centres, is set to get bigger and probably brighter thanks to a recent 10 million investment to dramatically expand the scientific facilities and laboratories, creating 15,000 new jobs over the next two decades.

Located just outside the village of Daresbury, birthplace of author Lewis Carroll, and almost equidistant from Manchester and Liverpool, the campus currently provides work for more than 400 scientists and technologists, as well as 500 employees of the 100 plus hi-tech companies who are based there.

But those figures look certain to rise dramatically if plans for expansion complete with a new technology village, shops, health and leisure facilities and transport links go ahead as outlined by the sites partners, the Science and Technology Facilities Council STFC, Halton Borough Council and development company Langtree.

Daresbury Laboratory, part of STFC, is a hugely impressive concept as it stands. It currently is home to two high powered particle accelerators as well as housing Blue Joule, the most powerful supercomputer in Britain.

That battery of super technology hardware has also been put to work on a series of projects which could further push back the boundaries of science. At the moment one group of scientists is using Blue Joule on a project in association with the Met Office, on climate change and even better weather forecasting.

Paul Vernon, Head of Campus Development for the STFCs National Science and Innovation Campuses, believes Daresburys business performance is equally impressive to its scientific track record.

The former bio-chemist, who worked in the world of business and commerce before joining STFC, uses his skills to identify the commercial opportunities offered by new scientific and technological developments.
Identifying the commercial opportunities offered by scientific developments and breakthroughs is just a part of what we do, he said.

Once we have identified a new opportunity we can go further and actually set up businesses around them. We work with start-up businesses and big corporations.

Since coming here ten years ago I have set up five companies, providing the back-up and support they needed at the time. But we also provide assistance for some big name companies. Thats what Daresbury is about a place where science meets business, added the 46-year-old bio-chemist turned business expert who lives in Chester.

Professor Adrian Wander, Director of STFCs Scientific Computing Department in Daresburys newly opened 37.5 million Hartree Centre, is justifiably proud of what has become one of the worlds foremost software development centres.

He said: The Blue Joule supercomputer which is located here can do one thousand trillion calculations per second the equivalent of a million i-pads. It means Daresbury now has the largest machine in the world dedicated to software development.

However Professor Wander is equally proud of his departments new Visualisation Suite which allows users to view incredibly complex images in both two and three dimensions.

The suite was most recently used by engineers from luxury car makers Bentley who used the system to recreate a virtual interior of a new model, so they could ensure there would be no hitches when the car went into production.

The system enabled the engineers to study a virtual interior before it went into production. The visualization highlighted a potential problem with light reflection which they were able to quickly remedy, added Professor Wander.

Professor Susan Smith, is the head of Daresbury Laboratory. Originally from Paisley, near Glasgow, the table-tennis loving physicist has been with the lab for 27 years and has worked on a great number of projects including examining the role of accelerators in treating certain cancers.

As a scientist she is committed to the work that she and her colleagues undertake. But as a member of the Daresbury team she also understands the impact that work can bring to the country and the economy.

The science is central but our work can also bring added value to UK plc, she said.

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