Science Minister opens British Antarctic Survey innovation centre

21 July 2017

The new Aurora Innovation Centre, that will support cross-discipline research to tackle environmental challenges and increase the real-world benefit of polar research, was officially opened today by Universities & Science Minister Jo Johnson.

BAS Aurora Innovation Centre opening ceremony

Science Minister Jo Johnson formally opens the Aurora Innovation Centre, alongside BAS Director Jane Francis and NERC CEO Duncan Wingham

Located at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Cambridge, the £4·3 million government investment aims to stimulate new ideas and innovative thinking that will lead to more scientific breakthroughs, new partnerships and economic potential that will benefit society. A key collaboration focus for Aurora is how polar expertise can be applied to other areas of policy, business, academia and the third sector.

As part of the Cambridge Innovation Cluster, Aurora benefits from a £300,000 contribution by Cambridge University for innovation projects.

Jo Johnson said:

With science at the heart of our industrial strategy and our investment of £4·7 billion to 2021, we are building on our reputation as a science and research powerhouse and ensuring the UK continues to punch above its weight in in global science. This new innovation centre will bring together great minds from a variety of disciplines to lead the international effort to tackle environmental change and demonstrate the value of research and collaboration in solving some of the greatest challenges of our time.

During his visit, the minister met research teams who are working on biotechnology, autonomous instruments, and Earth observation. He was also shown Antarctic sea lemons (potential sources of biopesticides), how satellites are utilised for navigation in polar seas and for tracking polar animals, as well as how space weather forecasting research is being used by the satellite and insurance industries.

Professor Duncan Wingham, NERC's Chief Executive, said:

Our aim is to unlock the full potential of BAS polar expertise and assets, to deliver socio-economic benefit. The Aurora Innovation Centre will contribute to NERC's vision of enabling the UK to deliver innovation and growth with responsible environmental management, and capitalise on Cambridge as a global centre for innovation.

Dr Beatrix Schlarb-Ridley, Director of Innovation at the British Antarctic Survey, said:

I am so excited about all the innovation possibilities growing out of our work in the polar regions. The breadth is inspiring: from novel bioactives for biotechnology and agri-tech, over autonomous and remote sensing for challenging environments, to modelling for space weather forecasts and sea-level rise, our expertise can add value to many different sectors of industry and society. We look forward to unlocking this potential through lively collaborations in the new innovation centre.

Further information

Sarah Vincent
Senior Communications Manager
British Antarctic Survey
01223 221445
07850 541910

Athena Dinar
Senior Communications Manager
British Antarctic Survey
01223 221441
07909 008516


1. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £330 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

2. British Antarctic Survey (BAS), an institute of NERC, delivers and enables world-leading interdisciplinary research in the polar regions. Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic, work together to deliver research that uses the polar regions to advance our understanding of Earth as a sustainable planet. Through its extensive logistic capability and know-how, BAS facilitates access for the British and international science community to the UK polar research operation. Numerous national and international collaborations, combined with an excellent infrastructure help sustain a world leading position for the UK in Antarctic affairs.

3. The creation of the innovation centre was announced in March 2013 by the former Minister for Universities & Science, the Rt Hon Lord David Willets. Funded by NERC, the initiative strengthens academic links between BAS and Cambridge University. The ambition is to stimulate new scientific and business collaborations that will lead to improved economic benefit for the UK.

4. Construction of the state-of-the-art conference and meeting facilities, exhibition area and partners' Collaboration Space Aurora was completed earlier this year.