High-tech facility is nothing to sniff at; Education Correspondent Tony Collins looks at a pounds 7.5m scientific investment at a Midland university.
The University of Worcester is to offer a new scientific service to firms across the West Midlands following a vital addition to its research and teaching facilities. The pounds 7.5 million state-of-the-art facility will open up important new areas, ranging from microbiology to research into eye allergies.
The Charles Darwin building houses the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit (NPARU), which produces all of the UK's pollen forecasts and assists police through its forensic services.
The building also includes teaching laboratories and a high-tech environmental test chamber, which is capable of replicating almost any climate in the world.
Professor David Green, University of Worcester's Vice Chancellor, said he was delighted to welcome HRH the Duke of Gloucester to open the new facility.
He said: "This is an excellent addition to the university's leading edge research and teaching facilities. It opens up important new areas including, for example, microbiology and research into eye allergies.
"I have no doubt that the outcome of the research conducted here will practically benefit many people in the region and beyond as well as provide an excellent training for our students.
"West Midlands firms will benefit as we are able to test their products independently and help them eliminate allergens."
The National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit is dedicated to tackling environmental aspects of asthma, hayfever, and airborne allergens such as pollen and house dust mite, both indoors and outdoors. It also carries out work on behalf of the police, analysing pollen and airborne particles to gather evidence in serious crime cases. This specialist unit will now expand its work within the new facility.
Professor Jean Emberlin, director of the unit, said: "The NPARU team is excited about the new building's world-class facilities for research and commercial activity in aerobiology and allergy, microbiology, forensic palynology and related topics.
"In particular, the controlled environment room, which can replicate most climatic conditions and has unique features, can be used for a wide range of work, such as aerosol and pollution research, testing materials and appliances, pathogen viability and allergens, and will enable NPARU to be a centre of excellence at the European level."
The pounds 7.5m building and research labs have benefited from pounds 2.25 million financial support from Advantage West Midlands and the Central Technology Belt.
The rest has been paid for by the university through a Barclays loan and from reserves. The university is currently developing a new pounds 100 million-plus City Campus in the heart of Worcester, breathing new life into the former Royal Infirmary buildings. The first phase, comprising two new halls of residence, opened in September with the second phase due for completion in September 2010.
The Duke of Gloucester takes a closer look at house dust mites in the new National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit