When good work is not rewarded

December 12, 2003

A unique Greenwich University research centre could be hit by funding policies despite its exemplary work with industry, according to the Lambert report.

Greenwich's Wolfson Centre for Bulk Solids Handling Technology is the only research centre in the UK that concentrates on the technologies of storing and handling powdered and granular solid materials in bulk. The techniques are vital to companies in the business of shipping large quantities of drugs or food products.

The centre, set up 30 years ago, works in a niche research field - embracing chemical, mechanical, civil and process engineering - and has attracted strong interest from the commercial sector, including the chemicals, oils, food and minerals industries and, in particular, the drugs industry.

GlaxoSmithKline was a partner, with United Biscuits and sugar manufacturer Tate and Lyle, in a consortium that pumped £1.5 million into the centre to help develop technologies to prevent damage occurring to products when moved in bulk.

But the centre, which has 20 staff, including researchers, engineers and technicians, received a 3a rating in the last research assessment exercise - too low in the seven-point research quality scale to attract any public research funding.

"If Greenwich's research funding is cut because of a fall in its quality rating, it may be difficult to maintain the centre's basic research and associated technology transfer activities," the Lambert report says.

Alan Reed, director of the Wolfson Centre, said: "We are in the bizarre situation where we find ourselves doing very good business with industry but get no support for infrastructure from the government. Businesses come to us expecting well-funded laboratories and equipment, and they don't expect to have to pay for that as well."

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