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Higher Education

The largest chemistry department in the western world

The Queen has officially opened Oxford University's new £60 million chemistry research laboratory

While other universities are talking of dropping chemistry because of falling numbers of candidates, Oxford is demonstrating massive confidence in the subject with this massive investment.

The state-of-the-art research building represents a new spirit of entrepreneurial activity at Oxford, with a third of the funding coming from city firm Beeson Gregory (since renamed IP2IPO Ltd). In return for the money, the company will receive half of the university equity in chemistry spin-offs for the next 15 years.

Interestingly, this unique financial deal with a city bank is pushing Oxford in a different direction from major rivals Cambridge. Oxford is able to strike such a deal because, unlike Cambridge and in line with all other major research universities, the university owns the intellectual property generated by academics.

The laboratory will accommodate some 400 researchers and will be organised around interdisciplinary research themes rather than traditional sub-faculties, including chemical and molecular biology, synthesis and molecular design, and interfacial and materials science.

It will house the latest nuclear magnetic resonance machines, lasers and mass spectrometers. The department's areas of expertise also include antibiotics, a tradition dating back to its early penicillin research, and nanoscience.




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