EPSRC announces interim leadership team for Rosalind Franklin Institute

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Photo of Professor Andrew Livingston

Professor Andrew Livingston

Thomas Angus/Imperial College London

EPSRC is delighted to announce the appointment of the interim leadership team that will spearhead the establishment of the new Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI).

A £100 million investment, announced by the government in February as part of its Industrial Strategy, will support a new national centre of excellence in technology development and innovation. Drawing together expertise from academia and industry, and from a range of disciplines, the Institute will develop disruptive new technologies - based on advances in the engineering and physical sciences - designed to tackle major challenges in health and life sciences. The RFI concept and business case was developed by a consortium of universities, led by the University of Oxford.

As Interim Academic Lead, Professor Andrew Livingston FREng, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London, will drive the next phase of the RFI development - working with the current university partners to define the initial science and technology programs, build partnerships with industry and academia, and set up the Institute's formal and legal structures.

An expert on membrane science and technology, Professor Livingston is Director of the Barrer Centre at Imperial and also led the establishment of the Engineered Medicines Laboratory, a collaboration between Imperial and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

He said: Successful research and innovation are critical to the prosperity of the UK. Many of the most exciting opportunities are at the intersection of disciplines or driven by university-industry collaboration, and the RFI represents a unique opportunity for the convergence of science, engineering and medicine. I am personally excited by the opportunity to work and learn alongside excellent colleagues from such a wide range of disciplines, and to share in the creation of a completely new Institute and the delivery of the breakthrough science and engineering it promises.

He will be assisted, as co-lead, by Professor James Naismith FRS FRSE FMedSci Director of the Research Complex at Harwell, and Professor of Structural Biology at the University of Oxford, who will oversee the design of the RFI hub building - a flagship new development on the Harwell campus.

He said: Rosalind Franklin is recognised as an experimental pioneer in physical science. Her famous image of DNA diffraction was an experimental masterpiece that unlocked the structure of DNA and started molecular biology. It is an exciting opportunity to bring together a new generation of physical scientists to create new technologies that will unlock post genomic medicine.

EPSRC is the delivery partner for the Institute. Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC Chief Executive, said: The Rosalind Franklin Institute is a major investment in the future of research and innovation in the UK. It promises to be an important centre of gravity that will attract academic excellence and industrial know how. The interim leadership team have a big part to play in bringing the vision into sharp focus and I am confident that, in Andrew Livingston and James Naismith, we have the right people for the job.

Professor Ian Walmsley FRS, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Oxford, who led the development of the RFI proposal said: This exciting joint venture between some of the UK's leading research universities will speed the applications of cutting edge physical sciences insights, methods and techniques into life sciences. The Rosalind Franklin Institute, named after a pioneer of this interdisciplinary interface, will bring together researchers with key partners in industry and major facilities. While the initial focus is on driving new methods and techniques to discovery, we anticipate new businesses will grow from the ideas generated at RFI, and industry will be able to access innovative approaches that will deliver immediate impact, whilst also contributing to shaping the research agenda. The collaborative joint venture model has been set up to make the most of interactions across disciplines and across applications and draw on a wide range of existing research excellence.

The initial RFI Joint Venture will comprise of ten university partners - Birmingham, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Imperial, King's College London, Leeds, Manchester, Oxford, Southampton, and UCL - which will form a network of spokes across the UK.

The Institute will have a flexible structure that allows other partners to join over time; and researchers from all UK universities will be able to access facilities at the hub, and complementary facilities in the spokes. Town Meetings will be held from the autumn onwards to engage with the wider UK community.

Notes for Editors:

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

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Reference: PN 41-17

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