CEO Welcome

As I look back on this past year, I never cease to be impressed by the commitment and engagement of our user community and our staff. In 2015, Diamond was the second most productive synchrotron on the world stage in the number of protein structures we deposited, and by the end of this financial year the number of peer reviewed journal articles enabled by Diamond reached 4,800. Each of these papers tells a story of scientific or technical progress and I invite you to enjoy a taste of selected highlights available for each village here. All of these achievements reflect both the strength of the UK synchrotron user community and the dedication and skill of staff throughout Diamond in providing the very best technical and scientific support.

The physical ‘heart’ of Diamond is the machine which has maintained 97.6% ‘uptime’ over the past year, the same as the year before, and has enjoyed a record 119.4 hours mean-time between failures in the same period – almost twice as good as in any previous year. The failure of a radio frequency cavity in September 2014 and the consequent loss of beamtime for two weeks underlined the profound importance of reliability so we plan to install an additional, new cavity in the storage ring in summer 2017 to provide further back-up. The machine team has also had to contend with many other challenges while improving the technology of the storage ring and you can read more about this in the Machine Operation and Development section.

The past year has also seen first users on a number of new Phase III beamlines. The full-field X-ray microscope B24 now allows whole cells to be imaged in great detail in a fraction of the time that conventional electron microscopy would take. The in vacuum Laue diffractometer I23 now enables the structure of complex, native biological macromolecules to be determined directly for the first time based on the sulphur edge. The near-ambient photoelectron spectrometer VERSOX, installed temporarily at I09, now allows chemists to follow reactions with molecular precision under realistic operating conditions (see here).

Diamond will also be bringing on stream a suite of state-of-the-art cryoelectron microscopes in the coming year as a dedicated new building is completed for the new beamline I14 alongside an Electron Microscopy Facility (EMF). The EMF will accommodate two JEOL microscopes funded by Johnson Matthey and Oxford University to support research in the physical sciences while a £15M grant from the Wellcome Trust, BBSRC and MRC will fund two FEI instruments for the life sciences – both of which have been installed temporarily in the main experimental hall, with the first producing astonishing new science which you can read about in this Review. All of these instruments will enjoy synergies with Diamond beamlines and benefit from our experience in highly efficient user operations to ensure that they are exploited to their full potential.

As Diamond anticipates completion of Phase III, with 33 fully operational beamlines by 2020, we are looking even further forward to the future. Our vision is to strengthen our position as a world-leading centre for synchrotron science, driving and supporting research at UK universities, institutes and industry. We also see Diamond as a cornerstone of a world-class site for scientific discovery and innovation at Harwell.

To deliver this Vision we will need to continue to upgrade our facilities, ensuring that every step in the delivery of science is world-class, from the storage ring, through sample preparation and handling, to optics and detectors for new or upgraded beamlines and dauntingly large quantities of data. The balance of roles and organisation of staff at Diamond may also evolve as we approach full-blown operations and require a wider range of skills to support yet more diverse science as well as ongoing technical development.

We are helped in all this by expert advice both from our Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and the Diamond Industry Science Committee (DISCo), and representatives of each now join our Board of Directors. Our Board has also enjoyed strategic advice for many years now from our academic representatives, Prof Jim Naismith and Prof Tony Ryan, both of whom will step down this summer. I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to both of them for the immense contribution they have made in helping to guide Diamond to its current success. We have also said goodbye to Simon Jeffreys as the Wellcome Trust’s representative on the Board, and welcomed his replacement, Tim Livett.

The past year has also seen the conclusion of the UK government’s comprehensive spending review to determine all areas of public funding, including science, for the financial years 2016/17 to 2020/21. We have yet to learn exactly how this will affect Diamond’s future funding, but it is clear that if the Government remains committed to supporting science and technology as key components of a knowledge-based economy, Diamond must continue to be funded at a level that will enable it to provide world-class facilities for UK academics and industry. However, with such support comes a responsibility – to deliver benefits to the UK economy and society in general, and to demonstrate that it does so. Diamond now provides proprietorial access to over 90 UK businesses; examples of recent breakthroughs in commercial research with Diamond can be seen here.

The Triennial Review of Diamond, requested by the UK government through the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and led by STFC, reported in the past year that Diamond’s governance arrangements, and in particular its coownership by STFC and the Wellcome Trust, serve it well. It also reported exemplary performance in all areas of activity at Diamond, commending our Industrial Liaison and Communications teams particularly strongly. It did however indicate that Diamond could exploit potential synergies with our neighbours to a much greater degree and we have renewed our efforts to explore opportunities in working together with STFC in areas with common technical interest.

As I close, staff and users are looking forward to 2017 when we will mark 10 years of user operations together with 15 years since the company was formed, and I look forward to the next 10 years of exhilarating new science delivered with our user community.

Diamond is a world-leading centre for synchrotron science, driving and supporting science at UK universities and research institutes. As a cornerstone of a world-class site for scientific discovery and innovation at Harwell, Diamond is regarded as internationally excellent, enabling essential research and development for UK industry.

This vision is being achieved through the following strategic objectives:

  1. To deliver internationally-leading synchrotron research and innovation
    • Provide a highly reliable, high performance source of X-rays, ultraviolet and infrared light.
    • Offer world leading beamlines and analytical tools.
    • Provide exemplary technical and scientific support for experiments.
    • Administer world leading data handling and analysis.
    • Recruit and retain the best talent.
    • Maintain world leading technology to underpin our science delivery.
  2. To maximise the scientific, economic and societal impact of Diamond
    • Attract and support the very best research groups in universities and institutes.
    • Drive even stronger engagement and support for UK industry.
    • Work in partnership with other organisations to help realise the full potential of the Harwell Campus.
    • Build stronger collaborations at the European and international levels.
    • Ensure the widest possible dissemination of Diamond's scientific output.
  3. To ensure the long-term sustainability of Diamond as a national facility
    • Deliver value for money in all aspects of our operations.
    • Engage effectively with stakeholders at all levels.
    • Identify and access new income streams.
    • Maintain operational infrastructure that is efficient and resilient.
    • Ensure governance is fully transparent.
    • Maintain health and safety at the forefront of operations.
  4. To engage and inspire the general public through promoting science
    • Strengthen educational activities for students at all levels.
    • Put public engagement and communications at the heart of the facility.
    • Champion the importance of STEM skills at all levels.
    • Increase exploitation of opportunities to disseminate science at a global level.
    • Ensure there is effective two-way communication at all levels of the organisation.
  5. To continuously plan for Diamond’s technical and scientific future
    • Ensure there is a clear planning cycle for delivery of activities.
    • Adapt the operating model to changing requirements.
    • Support the joint venture of the Harwell Campus.

Diamond Light Source

Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.

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