DARESBURY Laboratory could suffer a devastating blow in the form of 150 job losses by the end of 2008, it has been revealed.
This week staff at the world-leading laboratory called for support in their bid to establish a brighter future for the lab. The alarming news came after the Department of Trade and Industry revealed in its £10billion spending plan it would only fund Daresbury's synchrotron, currently the centrepiece of the laboratory, until the end of December 2008.
The 25-year-old synchrotron is a bright source of X-rays, ultraviolet and infrared light used by more than 1,000 university-based scientists every year. Results from an enormous range of experiments that use it are crucial to fighting the Aids virus, right through to manufacturing better tasting chocolate. Work towards securing a futuristic project at Daresbury will continue, yet still about 150 jobs are expected to be lost.
Dr Steve Bennett, a scientist at the lab, said: 'A highly dedicated team of scientists, engineers and computing experts have contributed to world-leading science over the past 25 years.
'Monday's announcement signifies the end of this highly successful era. Although we're looking forward to the next big project coming to Dares-bury, it is obviously a time of great concern for us and highly uncertain for the 300 specialists and support staff working on the synchrotron.
'It is essential every effort is made to avoid compulsory redundancies and for any restruc-turing to be properly funded. Staff must remain at the centre of the plans, because only they can deliver the world-class scientific research until the end of 2008 and the future projects.'
Plans are progressing with partners in the North West Development Agency, the universities of Liverpool, Manchester and Lancaster, and others for a new science park on the site. Besides the opportunities this would bring, the vision of those at Daresbury has already generated some £14m from the Government to develop an entirely new technology for a so-called fourth generation light source.
The expected success of this prototype project will release funds to build a cluster of novel electron-lasers. Extremely bright flashes of light will enable the equivalent of 'motion pictures' of atoms to be recorded and allow scientists to see how atoms stick together.
Dr Bennett added: 'The North West has always been a pillar of UK scientific research. With the support of laboratory management and regional partners it can continue to make a leading contribution.
'Public money has been spent in training staff over the past 25 years and the Government should be keen to retain their skills.'