Fire-hit facility vows recovery

November 4, 2005

The fire that swept Southampton University research facilities last weekend was a "tragedy for UK science", research council chiefs said as salvage attempts began.

Sunday's blaze destroyed part of the Mountbatten building, which houses offices and labs for the five-star rated Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS), and the microelectronics facility operated by the spin-off company Innos.

Bill Wakeham, the vice-chancellor, pledged this week to rebuild the facilities and said that something "bigger and better" would emerge from the ashes.

Initial estimates put the cost of rebuilding at £50 million. More than 500 staff and research students have been affected.

Support staff have tried to restore internet services and alternative lecture and seminar rooms have been found.

Professor Wakeham said: "This is a huge blow. We are committed to ensuring, as best we can, that the impact on current research and teaching will be minimal.

"We have had many offers of support and facilities from other institutions and companies. We expect the effect on undergraduate teaching to be very limited and short-term. For postgraduate students, the situation is more complicated and we'll be talking to them about the way forward."

Harvey Rutt, deputy-director of ECS and the ORC, added: "The next weeks and months will be trying, but we are confident that the spirit of the school will remain predominantly positive and optimistic as we work together."

Attila Emecz, director ofJprogramme operations at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, said: "We were distressed to hear of the fire at Southampton and recognise that this represents a serious blow to UK research as well as to the university itself.

"We have every sympathy for the staff and students at Southampton as they recover from this tragedy. We will work closely with them as part of this process."

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