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Maxwell Centre groundbreaking celebration

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Work has begun on a centrepiece building created to pioneer revolutionary “blue skies” research and industrial partnership in the physical sciences.

The start of construction on the £26 million Maxwell Centre marks a crucial early stage of a major move into new facilities for the staff of the Cavendish Laboratory.

Once completed in 2015 the building will offer laboratory and meeting spaces for more than 230 people.

The new facilities will see research scientists from industry occupying laboratory and desk space alongside the Cambridge research groups, with the aim of creating a two-way flow of ideas and exposing the best early career researchers to scientific problem-solving that relates directly to industrial need.

“This building will affect how we work together and promote the free-flow of ideas, providing the right sort of meeting places for people to generate innovative research,” said Professor Sir Richard Friend, Cavendish Professor of Physics, who will be the first Director of the Centre.

“The Maxwell Centre design means it is a building that brings in other departments such as Chemistry and Material Sciences.”

“It will also very much promote engagement with industry, large and small, showing that we recognise industry as a source of intellectual innovation.”

The centre will build on the research activity currently supported by the Winton Programme for the Physics of Sustainability at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, where the focus has been on original, risk-taking science since its inception in March 2011, emphasising fundamental physics research relevant to areas such as renewable energy.

Pioneering research from the Winton programme, including the new physics of materials that could harness superconductivity to revolutionise battery life, will be able to flourish at the centre.

Many other aspects of fundamental physics will be fostered, including advanced scientific computing, the theory of condensed matter, advanced materials and the physics of biology and medicine.

The Centre is named to commemorate physicist James Clerk Maxwell, who was appointed the first Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge in 1871 and who discovered electromagnetism and founded statistical mechanics.

Located between the Physics of Medicine building and the William Gates building on the West Cambridge site the Centre is due to open its doors in the summer of 2015.

Among those present at the ceremony was Francis Shiner, Managing Director of SDC Builders Ltd, the construction contractor carrying out the work on behalf of the University.

Funding for the project from the non-governmental sector was raised partly through philanthropic gifts and matched by industrial contracts with a very wide range of industries, including those collaborating with cognate departments such as Materials Science and Chemistry.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is providing a significant contribution to complement the non-governmental sources of funding for the programme.

Work begins on £26 million building named after physicist James Clerk Maxwell.

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