21 July, 2017 News stories

The new Aurora Innovation Centre that will support cross-discipline research to tackle environmental challenges and increase the real-world benefit of polar research was officially opened today (Friday 21 July) by Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson.

Science Minister Jo Johnson cut a ribbon to formally open the Aurora Innovation Centre (with NERC Chief Executive Duncan Wingham and BAS Director Jane Francis)

Located at British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, £5 million of funding was provided by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) from the UK science budget which aims to stimulate new ideas and innovative thinking that will lead to more scientific breakthroughs, new partnerships and economic potential that will benefit society.  The centre offers a partners’ Collaboration Space, exhibition area and state-of-the-art conference and meeting facilities.  A key collaboration focus for Aurora is how polar expertise can be applied to other areas of policy, business, academia and the third sector.

As part of the Cambridge Innovation Cluster, Aurora benefits from a £300,000 contribution by Cambridge University for innovation projects.

Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, said:

“With science and innovation at the heart of our Industrial Strategy and a commitment to invest £4.7 billion through until 2021, we are building on our reputation as a research powerhouse and ensuring the UK continues to punch above its weight in in global science.

“This new innovation centre will bring together great minds from a variety of disciplines to lead the international effort to tackle environmental change and demonstrate the value of research collaboration in solving some of the greatest challenges of our time.”

During his visit the Minister met research teams who are working on biotechnology, autonomous instruments, and earth observation.  He was also shown Antarctic sea-lemons (potential sources of biopesticides, useful alternatives to chemical pesticides), how satellites are utilised for polar sea navigation and tracking polar animals, as well as how space weather forecasting research is being used by the satellite and insurance industries.

Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, talks to Prof Lloyd Peck and Prof Melody Clark about bio tech applications for BAS Marine Science
Jo Johnson Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation being introduced to ‘space weather science by Prof Richard Horne

Professor Duncan Wingham, NERC Chief Executive, said:

“Our aim is to unlock the full potential of BAS polar expertise and assets, to deliver socio-economic benefit. The Aurora Innovation Centre will contribute to NERC’s vision of enabling the UK to deliver innovation and growth with responsible environmental management, and capitalise on Cambridge as a global centre for innovation.”

Dr Beatrix Schlarb-Ridley, Director of Innovation at British Antarctic Survey, said:

“I am so excited about all the innovation possibilities growing out of our work in the Polar Regions. The breadth is inspiring: From novel bioactives for biotechnology and agri-tech, over autonomous and remote sensing for challenging environments, to modelling for space weather forecasts and sea-level rise our expertise can add value to many different sectors of industry and society. We look forward to unlocking this potential through lively collaborations in the new Innovation Centre.”

“Our collaborations with BAS and its researchers are deep and long-standing,” said Professor Andy Neely, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations at the University of Cambridge. “Innovation originally developed for the Antarctic is used throughout the world, in sectors from climate change and biotech to electronics and insurance. This new centre is a reflection of that spirit of innovation.”

Building on the £200M investment in a new polar ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, the Government is also investing in the UK’s research infrastructure in the Antarctic. Jo Johnson also confirmed today a funding contribution of £18M towards the cost of modernising the British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. This investment will enable BAS to continue to deliver world-leading interdisciplinary research and help sustain the UK’s leading position in Antarctic affairs.

The creation of the Aurora Innovation Centre was announced in March 2013 by the former Minister for Universities and Science, the Rt Hon Lord David Willets.  Funded by NERC (Natural Environment Research Council), the initiative strengthens academic links between BAS and Cambridge University.  The ambition is to stimulate new scientific and business collaborations that will lead to improved economic benefit for the UK.

Construction of the state-of-the-art conference and meeting facilities, exhibition area and partners’ Collaboration Space Aurora was completed earlier this year.

Jo Johnson Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation at BAS Cambridge