Harwell Science and Innovation Campus

Redefining the boundaries of science and discovery

Uniting the UK’s brightest minds to tackle worldwide challenges

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Harwell Science and Innovation Campus Project summary

Client company name

Southern Construction Framework (SCF), Science Technology and Facilities Council, RAL space

Key Partners

Hoare Lea


Life Sciences, Research & Pharmaceuticals

Services provided



Sectors, Life sciences and pharmaceuticals


UK and Europe


Project story

A hub of scientific innovation for over 75 years, the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus plays a pivotal role in driving UK research and development - bringing together the world’s brightest minds, in state-of-the-art facilities, to solve today’s challenges. Home to more than 200 organisations including Siemens, Thales and the European Space Agency, this 700-acre site acts as a showcase for UK science and its considerable ambition.

In support of the campus’ ground-breaking work, Mace was appointed by the Southern Construction Framework in 2017 to deliver three cutting-edge research facilities - the Rosalind Franklin Institute, the National Satellite Test Facility and the Extreme Photonics Applications Centre - all of which are funded by UK Research and Innovation and presented complex design and construction challenges.

These pioneering facilities are testament to what can be achieved when the worlds of science and construction work together, with each project pushing the boundaries of science, technology and research. Connecting leaders in the field. Spearheading innovation. And playing their part in enabling some of the key scientific breakthroughs of our time.

The Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI)

The RFI unites scientists from across the UK in developing disruptive new technologies, both tackling major challenges in health and life sciences and accelerating the discovery of new treatments.

Unique in structure, the ground floor of the facility has been designed for optimum stability, in order to house particularly sensitive scientific instruments. This unique requirement means the foundations of the ground floor are separated from the rest of the building to shield it from vibration.

To prevent electromagnetic interference and create a stable environment for specialist technologies such as electron microscopy and mass spectrometry, stainless steel reinforcement was used in the structure, and iron free materials used in the fabric, finishes, and services.

The remaining three floors house collaborative working spaces, offices and social areas as well as structural biology, chemistry and imaging laboratories - designed to be flexible to support new collaborations and avenues of technological development as the Institute grows.

The National Satellite Test Facility (NSTF)

Located at the heart of the space cluster at Harwell Campus, the NSTF is the first of its kind in the UK - delivering a comprehensive set of facilities that can test spacecraft and satellites of up to seven tonnes.

An eight metres diameter and 16 metres long Thermal Vacuum test chamber formed the centrepiece around which the rest of the building was constructed.

Simulating the harsh conditions of space, the test chamber can be heated and cooled to achieve a temperature range of (-180 ֯C to +100 ֯C), preparing the satellites for missions in the chill of deep space or those close to the sun.

NSTF is operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) RAL Space facility on behalf of the UK Government and aims to further the cement the UK’s position as a world leader in space technologies.

The Extreme Photonics Applications Centre (EPAC)

EPAC, an advanced new imaging centre for STFC’s Central Laser Facility, will house a unique, state-of-the-art laser system with capability to accelerate development of new medical treatments and identify design improvements.

The high repetition laser system uses new and innovative imaging techniques to unveil the internal structure of objects - ranging from aircraft wings to bones - in just a matter of seconds.

At more than 50 million degrees Celsius, the laser testing process will generate temperatures hotter than the core of the sun. A single flash from the laser is equivalent to 1 quadrillion watt -30,000 times more powerful than the whole of the UK National Grid’s daily output.

Due to the unique properties of the testing chamber, a large volume of structural concrete was required for its 2.5-metre-thick and 8-metre-tall walls, providing radiation shielding and to withstand thermal cracking brought on by the extreme temperatures.

Project Stats

16 metres long and 8 metres diameter space simulation chamber (NSTF)
50 million+ degrees Celsius - the heat generated by the EPAC laser system
58,000 sq ft of research and collaboration space (RFI)


Precision engineering

Designed for optimum stability to house sensitive scientific instruments, the RFI’s ground floor was separated from the rest of the building to shield it from vibration. As a result, the RFI is one of the most electromagnetically stable spaces in the world.

Driving sustainable concrete solutions

At EPAC, the team worked closely with a global concrete specialist to create a unique concrete mix design that will support the complex technical building requirements while reducing carbon. Replacing the traditional Portland Cement with a less carbon intensive alternative led to a 48% overall carbon reduction and a saving of 1,373 tonnes of carbon.

Logistical challenges

Weighing over 98 tonnes, NSTF’s giant test chamber is so vast that it was delivered to the campus in six segments before being assembled in place and the building then constructed around it. Each of the eight diameter sections had to be lifted into place and carefully positioned in order to be sealed.