The OU is to receive £750k to develop the Wolfson Analytical Centre, a world-class research facility with an initial focus on planetary, environmental and space sciences.
The first project ‘The Environmental Boundaries of Life’, will bring together academic expertise to ask one of our most fundamental questions: are life and habitable environments unique to Earth?
To do this, the Centre will provide a base for specialists to explore the origin, evolution and sustainability of habitable environments on Earth and, using samples from space, explore conditions for life in the Solar System.
The grant has been awarded by the Wolfson Foundation, an independent charity with a focus on research and education. Its aim is to support civil society by investing in excellent projects in science, health, heritage, humanities and the arts.
Since it was established in 1955, some £1 billion (£2 billion in real terms) has been awarded to more than 12,000 projects throughout the UK, all on the basis of expert review.
Using the funding, the Wolfson Analytical Centre will act as a hub for UK and international teams to study samples from the Earth’s surface, the geological archive, analogues for Mars and icy moons, meteorites and samples returned from space missions.
Professor Nicholas Braithwaite, Executive Dean, STEM Faculty, said:
“We are delighted and grateful to have been awarded funding from the Wolfson Foundation.”
“The OU has pioneered planetary science research for many years – creating leading research teams in several areas, for example the interdisciplinary group AstrobiologyOU, which is now the largest of its kind in Europe and will drive much of the initial work planned for the Centre.
“This grant will enable us to develop this even further, bringing together a diverse and skilled team of academics to ask vital questions about the habitability of planets in our solar system and the pressing environmental challenges we face on Earth.”
Paul Ramsbottom, CEO of the Wolfson Foundation, added:
“The OU has assembled an impressive range of terrestrial and extra-terrestrial samples, offering intriguing insights into fundamental questions. We are delighted to help them purchase advanced analytical equipment to support their excellent research.”
Following the initial project and as the Centre evolves, new areas of focus will be developed including using research and expertise to tackle societal challenges.