18 Nov 2010   |   Network Updates

Cambridge: £20 million donation for physics research

David Harding, the founder, chairman and head of research of the investment firm Winton Capital Management, is to donate £20 million to the Cavendish Laboratory, at Cambridge University’s Department of Physics. The money will be used to set up and fund The Winton Programme for the Physics of Sustainability.

The gift, the largest donation to the lab since its creation in 1874, will create a new programme for the physics of sustainability, in which physics will be applied to meet the growing demand on our natural resources.

“Cambridge has a slogan: 'The Freedom to Discover' and I am hoping I can give the scientists of the Cavendish more freedom to discover,” Harding said. “While it is not quite as simple as using physics to save the world, this is an opportunity to use, for example, quantum physics to develop materials with seemingly miraculous properties that could combat the growing effect humans are having on the planet. I want to encourage research to keep the skies blue.”

The Vice-Chancellor, Leszek Borysiewicz, said, “The university is most grateful to David for this donation, which is truly exceptional both in its generosity and in its vision of translating fundamental discoveries in physics, to meet one of the most pressing needs of our generation.”

The university says the donation will help the Cavendish Laboratory, the birthplace of molecular biology and nuclear physics, cement its position at the forefront of the next revolution in physics. The donation will support programmes exploring basic science that can generate the new technologies and new industries. For example, the programme will advance understanding of how physics can address our increasing energy needs by using renewable power generation.

The programme’s director designate is Richard Friend, the Cavendish Professor of Physics and an expert on the physics, materials science and engineering of semiconductor devices.

Friend said, “Advances in fundamental physics have always had the capacity to solve very real problems. This programme will support the people with the radical ideas that bring practical solutions.”

The programme will provide studentships, research fellowships, and support for new academic staff as well as investment in research infrastructure, pump-priming for novel research projects, support for collaborations within the university and outside, and sponsorship for meetings and outreach activities.

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