UK industry is set to play a leading role in one of the biggest global science collaborations in history, after the government confirmed long-term investment in the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) to be built in Chile.
The £88 million investment will ensure UK scientists and engineers are heavily involved in the construction and operation of the telescope and its instruments, set to be the most advanced of its kind in the world.
UK manufacturers have already won £9 million worth of contracts, a figure that is predicted to increase as much as tenfold before 2023 when construction is expected to be completed.
Science and universities minister David Willetts said: “Not only will this new telescope considerably increase knowledge of the universe, its construction will drive growth and innovation for UK industry.”
Technology developed for astronomy is already being applied across many sectors, including extending the life of artificial knee joints, diagnosing eye diseases, improving the performance of industrial lasers and laser fusion research.
The advanced manufacturing challenges presented by the project are providing UK companies with the opportunity to apply for contracts. A UK technology development centre based in North Wales is delivering prototypes for the primary mirror system, which will consist of 798 hexagonal mirrors each 1.4m wide.
This development is aimed at securing a potential Eu100 million order for UK industry to manufacture the production segments.
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