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About the Research Complex at Harwell (RCaH)

This page was archived in April 2012 and is available for reference purposes only. Please see the RCaH website for full details.

Many of the most important current advances in science take place at the interfaces between traditional disciplines and frequently use large central facilities. RCaH will provide the environment and facilities for researchers in the life and physical sciences to undertake research across such traditional barriers, and encourage synergy between these areas of UK research excellence. It is especially targeted at researchers who will be conducting work at Diamond and ISIS, and other shared facilities on the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) site, both on a long and short-term basis.

Project aims

1. To provide a multi-disciplinary research facility that:

  • offers operational generic laboratory space for life and physical sciences research that will attract world-class scientists;
  • includes provision for common spaces;
  • is located on the RAL site and provides opportunities for interaction between users of Diamond, ISIS, the Central Laser Facility, and other central facilities on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus;
  • is sufficiently adaptable in design to be able to respond to changes in research requirements and opportunities in the future;
  • is of maximum size approximately 6548 m2 gross floor area.

2. To deliver the project within the construction budget agreed by RC-UK and the Project and Operations Board/SRO

3. To ensure and demonstrate that value for money underlies all project decisions

4. Target date for delivery of the facility is FY 2009/10


Background and context

The objective of this project is to meet science and user requirements by:

  • The construction of a new Research Complex adjacent to Diamond providing laboratories and shared facilities for both life and physical research groups;
  • Providing major laboratory equipment for shared use;
  • Setting up the operational management structure of the facility.


The building consists of the provision of 6548m2 gross, of adaptable / mixed use laboratories required for short, medium and long term visiting scientists. These area requirements have been developed in consultation with users and stakeholders.

Aerial visual of Research Complex at Harwell, Diagram produced by the Research Complex Architects, Nightingale Associates


Location information

The Research Complex is located on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire and is competively positioned close to the A34 and M4. There is nearby rail access from Didcot Parkway Station and a regular bus service to all local towns. Oxford is 16 miles away, Newbury 17 miles and Reading 20 miles.



In late August 2006, Lord Sainsbury, (then the Science and Innovation Minister), announced that a £26.4m Government investment would fund the construction of the new Research Complex. This investment will come from the Government’s Large Facilities Capital Fund (LFCF).

The investment is part of the Government's commitment to making the UK the most attractive location in the world for research. Maintaining access to cutting-edge, large-scale facilities is a key element in ensuring that UK scientists remain at the forefront of research.


Key timelines and milestones

The detailed design was completed in 2007 and construction began in March 2008. The building became operational in February 2010 with a formal opening ceremony in July 2010.


Key players

The MRC is leading the project on behalf of RCUK, in partnership with the BBSRC, EPSRC, NERC and STFC. Diamond Light Source Ltd is also a key stakeholder. A joint Project and Operations Board was established by RCUK in early 2003 to develop and manage the plans for the Research Complex. As well as the Research Councils, the Board also contained representatives from the scientific community, and the Diamond Light Source. Responsibility for overseen the building’s activities now rests with the Research Complex Management Board. This Board has taken over from the Project and Operations Board, has a similar membership and meets twice a year.


Key project status



October 2004

RCUK endorsed the science case

October 2005

RCUK considered a concept design scheme and recommended to OSI a funding allocation level required from the Large Facilities Capital Fund to support the project

March 2006

The project underwent a Gateway 1 review to assess the business case

April 2006

RCUK approved the business case following the Gateway 1 review

August 2006

OSI announced the release of funds for the project

January 2007

The project underwent a Gateway 2 review to assess the procurement strategy

April 2007

RIBA stage D design plans produced

December 2007

The project underwent a Gateway 3 review prior to an investment decision

January 2008

Construction contracts awarded to M+W Zander

February 2008

Professor Simon Phillips appointed as Director

March 2008

Construction began

February 2010

Building operational

July 2010

Opening ceremony


For all enquiries relating to the construction process for the Research Complex, please email


For further information regarding the Diamond Synchrotron, please visit


For further information regarding the ISIS pulsed neutron & muon source, please visit


For further information regarding the Central Laser Facility, please visit


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