Professor Peter Higgs at the opening of the Science Museum's Collider exhibition

Space technology centre named after Peter Higgs

A new £11m space technology centre named after "God particle" scientist Peter Higgs is to be built in Edinburgh.

News of the Higgs Centre for Innovation was announced by George Osborne in his Autumn Statement today, with Chancellor saying it was appropriately timed in the week that Professor Higgs travels to Stockholm to collect his Nobel Prize, for his role in predicting the Higgs boson, a theoretical subatomic particle responsible for mass nicknamed the "God particle".

The Higgs Centre for Innovation, due to open in 2016, will be constructed on the site of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC) operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh.

It will focus on "big data" – large-scale computer processing – and space, two of the most promising technologies of the future, according to the Government.

Higgs, 84, said after Osborne's announcement: "This support from the Treasury and the STFC will create an environment in which future generations of scientists from around the world can share and develop ideas."

Drawing on the resources of the ATC and working in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, it will aim to build bridges between academia and industry. As well as a team of scientists and students, the centre will house up to 12 small businesses.

The UK ATC, where the new innovation centre will be based, specialises in developing equipment and software for astronomical observatories, including some of the world's biggest telescopes. It also conducts its own research and manages collaborations with universities, institutes and companies at home and abroad.

A capital investment from the Treasury of £10.7m will be used to build the Higgs Centre for Innovation, which is to receive operational funding of £2million per year from the STFC over a period of five years.

The centre will bring together particle physics, astronomical instrumentation, large-scale computer processing, academics and industry.

Professor John Womersley, chief executive of the STFC, said: "The Higgs Centre for Innovation provides a unique opportunity to bring together the most advanced scientific and engineering expertise with the business support and knowledge needed to take new ideas through to market reality.

“STFC has a strong and proven track record in helping small and start-up businesses to take advantage of cutting-edge research to successfully compete on a global scale.

"Particle physics, astronomy and space science all address one of the biggest questions in science, what is the universe made of. The Higgs Centre for Innovation will significantly increase the positive impact that arises from fundamental research like this, both in job creation and economic opportunities and growth in the UK."

In his statement, Osborne claimed "science is a personal priority of mine" and also confirmed Government spending of £270m on quantum technology.

Professor Paul Hardaker, chief executive of the Institute of Physics, said both the construction of the new Higgs Innovation Centre and the investment in quantum technology were "good news for the UK".

He added: "As the Government has clearly recognised, science and innovation have the potential to lead our economic recovery. This new centre will help to capture the value generated by our outstanding research community for the benefit of the economy and society.

"We're delighted that the new centre is to be named after Peter Higgs. With others, his work has made a fundamental contribution to our understanding of sub-atomic particles and led - through the construction and operation of the Large Hadron Collider - to one of the most exciting and productive periods in physics research, inspiring a new generation to engage with our subject."

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