Interdisciplinary research centers

November 20, 1998

Although the EPSRC does not have institutes it does have fixed lifespan interdisciplinary research centres.

Established under the old Science and Engineering Research Council, they were created to bring traditional fields together and encourage the exciting research that traditional departmental structures made difficult.

IRCs were formed in areas such as polymer science, biomaterials, superconductivity, surface science and advanced materials. They allowed expensive equipment for "front-line research" to be concentrated in these centres.

Nevertheless the IRCs had originally stated lifespans of ten years, which Brook says has been been the subject of a very strong debate.

"If it has been extremely successful then why close?" On the other hand:

"Let's say the council can only afford to have eight IRCs running at a time, why do you have to stay with the original eight and keep them running for ever?

"After long discussions, we said after ten years we will remove the ring fence from our funding, by then (IRCs) should be able to compete on the same basis as everyone else in this new subject area - and so come into our normal funding streams. They all show the sign of surviving very well in the new climate."

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