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Government invests £300m in microscopes and telescopes

Neutron microscope and Square Kilometre Array to get bulk of the funding

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The government today announced it is throwing £300 million of taxpayer's money into three UK science projects in a bid to drive innovation, support growth and create jobs in the UK. 

A neutron microscope, to be built in Sweden, will receive £165 million in funding, while the Square Kilometre Array telescope will recieve £100 million and the M3 Space Mission (PLATO) will receive £25 million.

It is hoped the neutron microscope, said to be 30x more powerful than today’s microscopes, could help discover materials for faster planes, lead to breakthroughs in computer chips, and create new drugs, long-life batteries and lightweight military kit.   

The government said the investment into the Square Kilometre Array, a radio telescope being built across South Africa and Australia and hailed to be the largest in the world, could lead to "faster smartphones and increased internet speeds in the UK" because British scientists are helping to develop the telescope's central computer, which will be tasked with reading the huge volumes of data produced by the telescope.

It also believes the £25 million investment into PLATO – a giant telescope (made up of 34 smaller telescopes) that will monitor nearby stars and planets – will secure key roles for British firms as part of the mission and maintain UK international competitiveness in world class research.

Science Minister David Willetts, said: “Investment in science is a crucial part of this government’s long-term economic plan. It’s about investing in our future, helping grow new industries and create more jobs – and that will mean more financial security for people across the country.”

Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said international collaboration is important for projects on the sacle of the Square Kilometre Array and the M3 Space Mission.

"Many scientific projects can only be pursued through such large scale collaboration and it is great that the government has decided that the UK will play its full part," he said. "Investment in these projects is also an investment in British innovation and in the creation of sustainable economic growth built on our world leading science."


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