‘Magnet for innovation’ opens for business

The Translational Research Hub – Credit Mike Hall.

Home to two leading research establishments – the Institute for Compound Semiconductors (ICS) and Cardiff Catalysis Institute (CCI) – the Translational Research Hub (TRH) is designed to foster collaboration.

Funded by UK and Welsh governments, TRH brings industrial partners alongside researchers to design, develop and test new cleaner, greener products and processes using the Hub’s bespoke laboratories, offices, shared collaborative spaces, bespoke ERDF-funded cleanroom and state-of-the art microscopy suite.

The 129,000-sq-ft. research hub is the largest of its kind in Wales and exemplifies UK and Wales commitments to new collaborative scientific solutions to Net Zero.

TRH has been supported by UK and Wales funders, including £17.3m through UKRPIF, £12m from Welsh Government, £13.1m in European funding administered by WEFO, and £2.7m from HEFCW.

Science & Innovation Minister George Freeman said: “South Wales is home to the world’s first Compound Semiconductor cluster based on the prowess and prestige of Cardiff’s chemical science research. This Translational Research Hub will bring together business and academia to help generate new technological solutions to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges, from healthcare to energy. That’s why I’m hugely proud of the government’s investment which, from today, will help drive forward our Net Zero ambitions while boosting our efforts to establish the UK as a Science and Technology Superpower.”

Wales Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said: “I am delighted this innovation centre of excellence is now open for business. The significant investment we’ve made in the centre will help bring some of the most brilliant minds in Welsh academia together to find and develop made-in-Wales solutions to the major problems facing Wales and the rest of the world.

“Developing ‘next generation’ practices and technologies that will both shape our lives today and improve our experiences tomorrow will be crucial if we are to meet the climate emergency head on and build a greener, more sustainable economy.”

The TRH forms part of Cardiff University’s biggest campus upgrade for a generation – a £600m investment in the University’s future, including sbarc|spark, the Centre for Student Life and the Abacws building.

Professor Rudolf Allemann, Pro Vice-Chancellor, International and Student Recruitment and Head of the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, said: “TRH is a magnet for innovation. Built with industry to support cutting edge research and to strengthen the University’s interaction with industry, it will support the UK and Wales economy by building partnerships that create new products and processes. Cardiff’s leading researchers will use these fantastic bespoke facilities to work with partners across exciting sectors including energy, advanced materials, transport, communication, and healthcare creating pioneering new technologies, charting innovative research directions that lead to future funding proposals.”

Professor Peter Smowton, Director, Institute for Compound Semiconductors, said: “We are delighted to support cutting edge research and industry partners in our bespoke new ‘Home of Innovation.’ As a founder member of the CSconnected cluster in South Wales, we play a pivotal role in developing new energy efficient technology and effective techniques for the mass production of compound semiconductors. CS technologies are at the heart of green transport – electric vehicles, energy efficient communications and so-called “smart” technologies.”

Professor Duncan Wass, Cardiff Catalysis Institute, said: “TRH’s outstanding facilities will be vital to our work with industrial partners in fields such as the automotive, fuel and chemical manufacturing industries, helping to refine catalytic processes through conventional and innovative methods. With a range of collaborators, including BP and Johnson Matthey, TRH will help us fulfil our mission to create cleaner, greener catalysts.”

Two new buildings sit alongside the TRH to help industry turn ideas in transformative industrial applications. A first-in-class ICS ERDF-funded cleanroom features the capability to trial, establish and scale new and innovative CS devices to an industrial standard on wafers up to 200mm in diameter. And CCI’s bespoke Electron Microscopy Facility will deliver expertise and capability in nanomaterial imaging, analysis and characterization, facilitating new approaches to catalyst design and synthesis.

The realization of TRH has been made possible thanks to a range of project partners, including Bouygues UK, HOK and BDP.

Bouygues UK’s Operations Director for Wales, Stephen Davies said, “Handing over the Translational Research Hub to our valued client Cardiff University brings our work on Cardiff Innovation Campus to a successful completion. It has been a hugely rewarding experience for our team to be involved in such a complex and exciting project which will provide world leading science and research. The success of the project has been underpinned by the great team work from all parties involved including our design team, supply chain partners, Gleeds and Cardiff University. I am particularly delighted with our team’s commitment to social value with over 470 hours of our staff’s time donated to education and support, 26 work experience placements offered and 60 jobs given to previously unemployed people. We wish to thank Cardiff University, Gleeds and all our partners for their support and commitment in helping us to deliver an exceptional project to such a high standard.”

Gary Clark, Regional Leader of Science +Technology, HOK, added: “Today’s great universities are centres for learning as well as economic engines that drive development that can transform their communities and beyond. HOK tailored our design of Cardiff University’s Translational Research Facility to meet the specific needs of each institute while providing shared areas for interaction and collaboration. The sustainable design ensures that the building meets stringent targets for conserving energy. We also designed it with flexibility to easily adapt to the university’s needs as they change in the future.”

Martin Jones, landscape architect director at global design practice BDP, who led the masterplanning and public realm design for the Translational Research Hub, said: “We are thrilled to see this exciting phase of the Innovation Campus come to fruition, providing state-of-the-art facilities for world-leading scientific research. We have paid careful attention to incorporating plenty of places for people to meet within the outdoor spaces, designed to spark lots of innovative collaboration. Meanwhile, a pollinator garden will support the ‘Pharmabees’, a university research initiative exploring how the pollination of certain plants could lead to the development of drugs to fight ‘superbugs’ that are now resistant to traditional antibiotics.”

TRH sits next door to Cardiff’s newly-opened sbarc|spark building, home to the Social Science Research Park (SPARK) and Cardiff Innovations@sbarc|spark – the University’s creative base for spinouts and startups.