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Minister opens £4m 'state-of-the-art' chemistry facilities at Leeds

A listed building at University of Leeds now houses new £4 million state-of-the-art chemistry laboratories, opened today by Minister for Science and Innovation, Lord Sainsbury.

This mix of old and new is testament to the University's rich history and to its continued importance as a centre of excellence for chemistry and physical sciences, which sees chemists working side by side with biologists, physicists and engineers in multidisciplinary teams in emerging areas of research.

The project, which boasts dedicated facilities for around 220 undergraduates, was funded by the Higher Educational Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the University.

Opening the new facilities, Lord Sainsbury said:

"I congratulate the University of Leeds on its excellent work and am confident that these new facilities will help it build on what it has already achieved. Facilities like these play a key role in one of our biggest challenges - to excite our young people about the challenges and opportunities that science has to offer.

"The University of Leeds has produced an enviable number of spin-off companies and delivers 40 highly-trained chemistry graduates to industry and 35 into further research every year, as well as being the only institute in Europe and one of three in the world working in the field of colour chemistry.

"The Government believes continued strength in chemistry is central to the future prosperity and quality of life of the UK and we are providing the resources to help meet this vision."

University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Arthur said:

"Chemistry affects all aspects of our lives, and underpins our understanding of everything from drug development to the air that we breathe and the stars in our sky. Chemistry at Leeds is special, from its beginnings, serving the region's dyeing and textiles industry, to the 21st century quest for knowledge in emerging fields such as nanotechnology and biomaterials.

"With the government's support, we're investing right across our chemistry disciplines to ensure our students learn in an environment shaped by the latest research, and that they are equipped to take their place in a knowledge economy, working at the cutting edge, and making their contribution to the nation's prosperity."

The new Priestley laboratories are energy-efficient and built to the highest specification, with a range of high-spec computer-controlled equipment and both 'wet' and 'dry' chemistry laboratories.

There are also other dedicated undergraduate facilities, including a seminar room, library, computer cluster and write-up area; around 220 students can be accommodated at any time.

The £4 million for the Priestley teaching laboratories follows on from more than £8m spent on chemistry research laboratories at Leeds by Government and the University since 1999.

The Government's Science Research and Investment Fund (SRIF) funded the refurbishment of research labs at the University. SRIF has also committed to spend a further £1.1 million over the next two years on chemistry facilities at Leeds.

Notes to editors

1. The University is at the forefront of technology transfer in chemistry, with two spin-out companies in the last two years to apply knowledge generated to reducing the environmental impact of textile processing around the world and developing eco-friendly technologies.

Case Study - Perachem Limited

Perachem Limited, a spinout company from the department of colour and polymer chemistry at the University of Leeds, was established in January 2004 to develop and exploit innovative chemicals.

Perachem is developing speciality products for the global chemical industry with a better safety and environmental profile, without sacrificing performance or cost-competitiveness.

Its first products to reach the market-place (sponsored by Australian wool producers) are used in the wool processing industry, representing a major environmental improvement from the current chlorine based process.)

2. The joint DTI/HEFCE/DfES science research investment fund now provides £500 million per annum for investment in research infrastructure. SRIF funding is achieving significant benefits such as the establishment of laboratories to a high standard, enabling universities to carry out quality projects from various funding sources, and to compete globally. The refurbished laboratories and new equipment are also attracting world-class researchers and academics to the UK.

3. In the last five years of chemistry at Leeds, the University has appointed 11 new research staff, received £25.4m in research income, founded six spin-off companies and successfully applied for 31 patents.

For further information: 

Please contact the University of Leeds Press Office on +44 (0)113 343 4031 or email

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