Speech by David Willetts, Minister for Science, at ISIS
23 Mar 2011




Announcement by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science of £11 million funding for the Chipir instrument and the start of the ISIS Second Target Station Phase 2 Project on 14 March 2011.



Dr Andrew Taylor, Director, ISIS

We’ve had the pleasure of showing our Minister some of the wonderful science that we have been doing, and some of the inward investment. Here we are back in the Second Target Station where the first seven instruments are already operating, and we are ready to go forward with the second phase of instrumentation. So, can I hand over to David Willetts, the Minister for Science.

David Willetts, Minister for Science

Thank you very much indeed. It’s great to be here, and it’s very exciting being here at Harwell and just seeing all the extraordinary scientific projects that are underway here. And it’s great to have so many facilities clustered in one place, something that I’ve been told is one of the strengths of Harwell and I can see it for myself, rather than having the different facilities spread all across the country. 

And, as you know, you’ve had some excellent results from the first phase of the work on the target stations here, and I’m pleased coming here today, to announce that we have been able, out of the Large Facilities Capital Fund, to find the funding to go ahead with the Chipir project that was described to me earlier on.

I’d like to be able to say that it was touch-and-go at one o’clock [when the Minster arrived at ISIS], but when I heard the presentation, that clinched it for me! But as you know, these decisions are actually going through an incredibly careful process of scrutiny and assessment, and that project [Chipir] came out with very strong credentials indeed, because it’s a very good example of what Harwell is all about. Both excellent pure science, but it is also the practical application of that science.

Something that for me as a layman has really struck home today is the vulnerability of anything from an aircraft to, for me as a politician, a voting system, to a single neutron doing damage in an unexpected way. So we clearly do need to be able to understand better the vulnerability of so many systems that we depend on, especially those of us who fly around the world. And the Chipir research project is clearly going to be very important, and I hope it establishes us as a world leader in assessing these types of risks.

Now I know that there were other applications as well as part of the Phase Two of the target station, and these are all still very much in play. People here who have been working on some of the other potential projects that were on display, some of them may be funded in other ways, but all of them are still on the list of candidates. It doesn’t mean that the others are not able to go ahead, but with funding limited, as I know you’ll understand, we have to do it one at a time. And the Chipir project is the first one we’ve been able to fund for a go-ahead.

So thank you very much indeed for what you’re doing here. I think we can be very proud of the quality of the pure science here, but also I think we can be proud of the efforts that you’re making to explain to a wider audience the practical implications of what you’re doing. And I’ve been a guinea pig for that, because when I can understand anything from how you are able to use bombardment by neutrons to see exactly where faults might have been in a weld on a piece of kit inside a formula one car, through to how you can use these techniques to assess the safety of an aeroplane, I can see the practical value of what you do.

Thank you very much indeed.

Keith Mason, Chief Executive, STFC

Minister, thank you very much, that’s incredibly good news. We can go ahead with Chipir and it’s very important to maintain momentum on ISIS and maintain the direction of travel going forward. We’ve been around various places at Harwell today. We’ve seen the Diamond Light Source. Diamond is an absolutely fantastic world-leading facility, and I was earlier pointing out to the minister that the use of synchrotron radiation in this way is something that was invented in the UK and now there are seventy-odd synchrotrons around the world and they’ve become standard workhorses.

I think the same is also true of ISIS. The point I’d like to make here is that, if anything, the potential of spallation neutron sources is even greater than synchrotron radiation. And again, it’s the case where the UK is ahead of the world, and there aren’t seventy spallation neutron sources around the world, there’s only a handful. We have the opportunity to really build on our lead and maintain it. I’m very proud of the fact that ISIS is a world-leading facility. I’m very proud of the international participation we have in it and the contribution made by our international partners. This continued investment in target station two will keep us ahead of the game and will keep us developing the impact from the science that ISIS has come to be known for. And, as I said, the untapped potential in neutron science is absolutely fantastic and we will be at the forefront of taking that forward.

Thank you very much.