Visit – Living Systems Institute, Streatham Campus, 28 November 2016

Visit to the Living Systems Institute on 28 November 2016

After many months it was at last possible to view this remarkable modern building from the inside, and to learn much about its design and purpose. Located next to the Geoffrey Pope building at the top of Stocker Road the LSI is the University’s latest addition to the skyline of the Streatham campus.

The Living Systems Institute will house a new inter-disciplinary research facility, bringing together specialist researchers from different disciplines in an environment that fosters collaborative work, building on Exeter’s current global reputation for research in human, animal and plant diseases. Professor Philip Ingham FRS, the inaugural Director, is building a strong research team that already has specialist scientists drawn from nine different countries.

The modern entrance is through the Geoffrey Pope Building where we found social and meeting spaces decorated in muted colours with much use made of natural light wherever possible. A sheltered open terrace offers views across the city and down to the Exe estuary. That said, the building is dug deep into the hillside and has several floors below ground level where the environment is carefully controlled. We were told that the LSI building had taken just 4.5 years from concept to reality, at a cost of £52 million.

A presentation by architects and a discussion led by researchers followed the welcome by the Vice-Chancellor, and tours of the building were also available. It was good to see 19 members of Exeter Branch at this prestigious event. The architects’ presentation outlined the thinking behind the innovative design of the building, which fosters multidisciplinary research in both laboratory design and in the location of many small informal social spaces where discussion can take place. Research laboratories, support laboratories and research offices are all designed to encourage collaboration and it is anticipated that researchers will get used to ‘hot desking’.


Computer “Mock up” of the research benches                                                                                                                       Viewing the large open plan office

 

The session billed as ‘Why does basic research matter and who should fund it?’ focused initially on the importance of basic, curiosity-led research which can lead to new discoveries that can make a significant difference to our understanding of the world. Next our attention was drawn to the vital role of targeted, funded research that should ensure that discoveries benefit the human condition – also it was concluded that such findings should therefore be made available to pharmaceutical scientists.

Exeter’s Living Systems Institute is intended to become a world leader of this new approach to science, where multidisciplinary collaboration can lead to new inventions and fresh insights that can challenge some of the diseases that face humanity, from chronic and infectious human diseases to plant diseases that threaten the world’s food supply.

This impressive facility has its official opening in July 2017.

Louise Clunies-Ross

 

 

In the LSI biology facility                             View of the Exe valley from the LSI

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