As part of the Budget 2020 announcements, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak yesterday pledged £180 million over six years to the Natural History Museum to create a new science and digitisation centre at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus.
The new facility will be a global, best-in-class, sustainable base for high-end natural sciences research and international collaboration. The funding will enable the museum to safeguard the future of its unique collection of 80 million specimens and create a world-class research centre that will strengthen the UK’s position in tackling global challenges including climate change, resource scarcity, biodiversity loss and emerging diseases. The investment reflects the Government’s commitment to spend 2.4% GDP on research and development, and to deliver the UKRI Infrastructure Road Map.
Open to scientists and researchers from around the world, the facility will house around 40% of the Museum’s collections as well as laboratories, digitisation suites, technology-enabled collaborative research spaces, computing, conservation laboratories and workspaces for digital scholarship. It will be an additional site to the Museum’s existing locations within London and Tring.
Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, says: "The Natural History Museum is leading the way on vital scientific research and its important contributions shape our understanding of the world around us. I am delighted that we are investing £180 million in this state-of-the-art facility that will open up the Museum's unique collections and expertise to academics and researchers to help increase knowledge and innovation.”
The development of new world-class accommodation will allow the Museum to move collections currently at risk of deterioration and irreparable damage from being housed in functionally and physically obsolete 20th century buildings to facilities which meet international collection standards. The new centre will enable the cataloguing, protection and expansion of the collection for future generations, providing space and facilities to ensure information, such as critical molecular data, is preserved and extracted.
Locating the Natural History Museum’s new centre at Harwell Campus will unite two world-class science and innovation networks, placing the Museum and its collaborative research inside a scientific community of over 6,000 people, co-located with £2billion of open access national laboratories – accelerating the pace of research, generating jobs and boosting productivity in the UK.
Operating a hub and spoke model, scientific discoveries and innovative technologies emerging from Harwell Campus are benefitting economies locally, nationally and internationally - as demonstrated by organisations on the Campus including the Faraday Institution and Rosalind Franklin Institute.
Angus Horner, Partner and Director at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus says: “Locating this new centre at Harwell Campus will place the Natural History Museum inside a world-leading science and innovation community, taking full advantage of co-location with the Diamond Light Source, the UK’s Synchrotron, and extending the Museum’s globally significant research for the greater good of the planet and mankind.
“One of the first challenges we would welcome working with the Museum on is food production - to resolve the interconnected human and planetary health pressures. With the Museum here on Campus we can bolster the many organisations working in this area at Harwell. The Museum’s deep knowledge of the natural world is synergistic with multiple organisations at Harwell Campus.
“Working collaboratively, we can place the UK at the forefront globally of developing both sustainable food production technologies and environmental stewardship strategies. This is just one example of the benefit to the UK of today’s announcement.”