Daresbury Laboratory hosts UK programme to boost heritage science

Egyptian hieroglyphs with silhouettes of people

RICHeS will create a network of UK heritage clusters of excellence across the UK.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Daresbury Laboratory is to host a multi-million pound, national programme designed to boost heritage science across the UK, with the headquarters located at Sci-Tech Daresbury.

Announced last week, the Research Infrastructure for Conservation and Heritage Science (RICHeS), is an £80 million programme, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

It is the first strategic, long-term, government-funded programme designed to support heritage science research across the whole of the UK. From archaeology to art and literature through the generations, it will generate new knowledge while joining up currently dispersed data and resources for easier access.

UK clusters of excellence

RICHeS will create a network of UK heritage clusters of excellence across the UK, based around access to world leading research facilities and expertise.

These will unlock the potential for heritage assets to contribute to innovation in areas such as:

  • digital twins
  • artificial intelligence
  • robotics
  • bioimaging

Synergies and opportunities

The RICHeS programme creates a solid synergy with Daresbury Laboratory’s world class skills and research infrastructure, from particle accelerator research to the Hartree Centre’s advanced digital technologies and artificial intelligence capabilities.

Additionally, its cutting-edge microscopy facilities will provide vital support for conservation projects, while advanced bioimaging techniques will support the dating and authentication of heritage assets, such as paintings.

In the first instance, it will also create eight new jobs on campus, with plans to take office space within Sci-Tech Daresbury’s new Violet development, and which will become the RICHeS headquarters. The campus itself is already home to more than 150 science and technology businesses.

Supporting heritage in the North West

The Daresbury hub will act as a vital support system for heritage research programs both across UK, and particularly for the North West.

It will collaborate closely with academic institutions including the universities of Liverpool, Manchester, and Lancaster, as well as local museums carrying out cutting edge research, such as at Halton’s Norton Priory.

Economic and societal benefits

Paul Vernon, Head of STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, said:

It is incredibly exciting to be working alongside AHRC on this UK-wide programme to support the research facilities, collections and expertise that are pivotal to heritage research in the UK.

This is an exceptional opportunity to advance our knowledge and preservation of cultural heritage, through the world class expertise and research facilities here at Daresbury Laboratory.

The RICHeS programme not only brings the discipline of heritage science to Daresbury, it will also bolster economic growth, and bring societal benefits to the region.

Uniquely interdisciplinary field

Professor Christopher Smith, Executive Chair of AHRC, said:

At AHRC, we are delighted to be teaming up with STFC to host our infrastructure headquarters at Daresbury Laboratory.

Heritage science is a uniquely interdisciplinary field that uses and develops cutting edge technologies in sensing, imaging, simulation and predictive modelling, and combines engineering, physical and environmental sciences with art history, archaeology and the study of material culture.

Siting RICHeS HQ at Daresbury will open up a wealth of opportunity for AHRC’s communities to collaborate with academic and industry partners in one of the UK’s most vibrant tech campuses.

Research and innovation superpower

STFC and AHRC are two of the nine research councils that operate as part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the largest public funder of research and innovation in the UK, investing in research that spans all disciplines and all sectors.

RICHeS forms part of the UKRI’s £481 million investment through the UKRI Infrastructure Fund into a portfolio of research and innovation infrastructure investments to maintain the UK’s position as a research and innovation superpower.

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