Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:15 am on 1st April 2008.

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Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Liberal Democrat, Southport 11:15 am, 1st April 2008

A Northwest Regional Development Agency press release that I chanced across the other day, dated 2003, states:

"The scientific future of Daresbury has been given a major boost, thanks to two significant announcements from the Northwest Development Agency...and the Department of Trade and Industry...The NWDA are pleased to announce funding of £25.7 million in order to develop Daresbury's Science Park, securing its future as a centre of excellence for scientific research and development. The DTI have also given the go-ahead for the research, development and design phases of the world-class...Fourth Generation Light Source...These developments will make a major contribution to the economic development of the region, providing opportunities to secure inward investment and spin-outs of companies to link with Daresbury. Following on from recent decisions to embed Europe's most powerful academic research computer and the world's most powerful microscope at the Laboratory, Daresbury's future could not be brighter."

In the same press release, Lord Sainsbury says:

"This is an important step towards placing Daresbury at the cutting edge of accelerator science. The 4th generation light source would provide scientists with a first-class facility to conduct vital experiments in many disciplines. Its potential capability is unique in the world, and its capacity to combine a wide range of experiments would establish the UK as a major international player in this technology."

I would like to give a few key facts that put that in context. Daresbury should be in a very enviable position now, because it should have got the Diamond synchrotron, the particle accelerator, which would have been a £382 million investment in Daresbury. It did get the £21.3 million investment in Linac and the promise of the fourth generation light source. Why did it not get the synchrotron? A National Audit Office report on big science projects makes it crystal clear that the economic benefits relating to the particle accelerator were far greater in the north-west than anywhere else, and than where it actually went in the Oxford area. The reasons why it went there are predominantly cultural. Scientists at Oxford or certain key academics would not forsake the leafy environment of Oxford for the rougher area of Cheshire. There was also direct pressure from the Wellcome Trust, which clearly also felt that it would be a little bit hazardous to go up north. There was no doubt, at the time the proposal was considered, that the physics base in the north-west—in Manchester, Liverpool and further afield—was very strong and capable of supporting such a venture.

However, if we look at the fourth generation light source as a consolation prize, it has to be said that it was, on the face of it, a good one. The NAO said of the project that the level and form of engagement with industry—