Justify why this model is the most appropriate, as opposed to other approaches (such as local provision / strategic equipment, etc.).
Reasons to be considered may include the need for specialised expertise in the technique, a new technique that is still at the early stages, unique capabilities
(rather than just extra capacity), efficiencies of scale, fostering new communities or any other well founded and clearly explained justifications for a National
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The proposed facility is a mid-range facility because:
- The basic capital cost of the provision of the equipment (including the accelerators, beam lines, specialist end stations etc.) is in excess of £20M. To provide such a facility to each laboratory and organisation that required it would obviously be uneconomical. In general, users come from a large range of UK universities, public bodies and companies and require only a few weeks of access over a 3- or 4-year project. Hence a central facility operation encourages maximum utilisation of equipment
- The operation of the equipment and interpretation of the experimental data requires specialist knowledge and many features require extensive explanation for the full benefits of the techniques to be exploited. Again, this is difficult to justify for the use of ion beam analysis or implantation which may only form a small aspect of a larger activity.
- The equipment is capable of generating a hazardous radiation environment and stringent health and safety protocols have to be in place and maintained to ensure the safe operation of the equipment. The investment in ownership and training for operation of such equipment is therefore relatively high and once again more economic when spread over many application/users
- The equipment is very versatile and can be used in many different application areas so that the number of potential users that can share the equipment is high.
- Users often cross benefit from technical advances driven by other areas.
- Users can benefit from the in-house research and development of the tools and techniques provided by a centre of sufficient critical mass.
- Projects supported by this facility can be cross-disciplinary, unified by a common technology and frequently involve trained specialists from the facility working with those from the user community to help devise, set up and plan the experiments and to assist with the interpretation of the results. Such a facility needs to be maintained at the state-of-the-art and requires staff capable of developing and maintaining the equipment in this condition which relies on in-house specialist knowledge of the equipment.
Such an Ion Beam Facility does not compete with standard ion implantation foundry work provided by batch implantation companies set up to provide commercial semiconductor processing on a large scale. Rather the Ion Beam Facility will provide a more flexible and lower throughput operation (by comparison to the large batch services) which is not considered economic or possible by the commercial foundries. Nor does it compete with commercial analysis facilities which provide lower cost analysis services with more conventional (low cost) equipment.
From the usage both via commercial and EPSRC grants there is a strong demand in the UK and overseas to utilise the equipment installed at the UKNIBC, thereby minimizing the individual costs per project.
The UK has had a National Ion Beam Facility since 1978 which has evolved through many funding mechanisms and is currently supported by payments from EPSRC for beam hours delivered to users at an agreed rate determined from a TRAC analysis of the costs associated with running the facility and the uptime of the equipment. This methodology has been key in the sustained operation of this facility over the past 15 years.