Work starts on new home for NERC's British Geological Survey

30 January 2015

Work is starting on the new £20 million Lyell Centre at Heriot-Watt University's Edinburgh campus with a groundbreaking ceremony at the site.

Work starts on new home for BGS

The world-leading new Lyell Centre for earth and marine science and technology will be the Scottish headquarters for the British Geological Survey (BGS) as well as a major joint BGS/Heriot-Watt University research centre for geological, petroleum and marine sciences.

Jointly funded by UK and Scottish funder - NERC, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and Heriot-Watt University - the Sir Charles Lyell Centre will promote innovative research at the core of geoscience, marine ecology, computing, mathematics and engineering.

Scheduled for completion in early 2016, the centre will establish in Scotland a global centre of excellence based on research synergies and collaboration. It will bring together key expertise from both institutions as well as an £8·5 million investment in top-level academic recruitment from around the world, providing a huge opportunity for Earth and marine science in general, and for Scotland in particular.

The emphasis of the centre's work will be at the intersection of the Earth and marine sciences. The new centre will collaborate and leverage existing NERC investments and innovations at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

The Lyell Centre will create a world-leading research cluster, bringing science and technology together to tackle major issues of natural resource and energy supply in a responsible and sustainable way.

Research in the Lyell Centre will play a key role in finding pragmatic solutions and providing evidence-based informed and reliable opinions in areas of energy supply, environmental impact and global climate change, where inputs have traditionally been polarised.

Its work will be both socially and industrially relevant at national and international scales and will allow us to use innovative methods to create real-world solutions in areas including global change and ecosystems; seafloor-mapping using advanced robotic vehicles; earthquake and volcanic risk and monitoring; and energy security.

John Ludden, executive director BGS, said:

"It is a pleasure to see work begin on the British Geological Survey's new home in Scotland. Our facilities and our staff, currently at several sites across Edinburgh, will be united here at the Lyell Centre alongside research teams from Heriot-Watt University. This tremendous opportunity will broaden our science base and create an innovative hub of world-leading research in the geosciences in Scotland."

Professor Steve Chapman, principal of Heriot-Watt University, said:

"This is the physical start of a tremendous project and is the result of many months of dedicated work behind the scenes.

The Lyell Centre will provide a huge opportunity for earth and marine science in Scotland and globally, commensurate with Heriot-Watt's international standing and global reach."

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1. The Lyell Centre is funded by Heriot-Watt University, BGS, NERC and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC). Additional funding of £8·5 million will also underpin investment in top-level academic staff recruitment and student research positions. The global recruitment campaign for the Lyell Centre was launched in December 2014.

2. The centre will house BGS (Scotland) and staff from the university's schools of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure & Society and Life Sciences. As well as providing new office and laboratory facilities, the Lyell Centre will incorporate a new 50,000 litre climate change research aquarium, the UK NERC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Oil and Gas - a high-level industry engagement and training initiative for the oil and gas sector - and the Shell Centre for Exploration Geoscience.