News feature: Looking back on the lab move one year on

14 August 2017

 Empty Crick lab

After nine years of planning and anticipation, science is now hard at work inside the new Francis Crick Institute building. 

We opened the doors of our stunning new £650 million building to the first scientists in August 2016 - and it is now home to around 1,500 people with 94 science groups working on hundreds of research projects with the potential to transform lives.

The move itself was a logistical challenge of the highest order. No fewer than 17,500 pieces of equipment were moved, along with 14 Science Technology Platforms (STPs, research facilities with state-of-the-art equipment such as election microscopes and mass spectrometers) and more than 3,000 computers and associated items.

David Roblin, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Scientific Translation, said: "Repeated delays in getting full access to the building created a great number of challenges for our migration planning. Despite the difficulties in moving into a building that was for a while still an active construction site, we were able to move in within the year 2016, within budget and in the planned laboratory sequence which minimised disruption.

"This wouldn't have been possible without our phenomenal team, whom I would like to thank for their flexibility and professionalism in dealing with the extraordinary pressures of the move. Scientific discovery in the building started in 2016 and I am thrilled that we should be fully operational later this year. The Crick is beginning a new chapter focused on fully realising our innovative strategy of discovery without boundaries." 

An enormous undertaking

 Labs moving graphic

Caroline Hill, Group Leader at the Crick, said: "Years of planning, archiving and filing finally came to fruition with our move into the Crick. Decades' worth of experimental notes had to be sorted through, thousands of vials stored in liquid nitrogen reorganised and thousands of zebrafish embryos couriered by bike!"

David Hudson, Head of Operations for Science Technology Platforms, said: "The migration of around 30 different specialist facilities was an enormous undertaking that was extremely challenging but ultimately a success. Our move began with the lowering of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and electron microscopy equipment into the basement by crane. The situation was exacerbated by unreliable telephones and, even more challenging, no toilets or lifts, which meant staff had to climb the stairs from the lowest basement floor to use toilets in the on-site portacabins."

"Maintaining essential research services across multiple sites was one of our major challenges but staff worked incredibly hard to ensure that the disruption on science was minimal. During periods of inactivity many took the opportunity to focus on other projects, for example software development and paper writing, as well as a having a good clear-out!"

A fresh start under one roof

Labs moving

It was an enormous effort and a logistical challenge in moving everyone into the new Crick building, but one that has ultimately been very successful. But now that researchers have moved in, what has their experience been like?

Tim Van Acker, a postdoctoral training fellow, said: "I regularly meet researchers from different fields in the canteen, collaboration spaces and on the stairs, and we end up helping each other out. Having 14 STPs under one roof is also amazing - when you need something doing, you only need to walk across the building!"

"Being located in the Knowledge Quarter is great for expanding our research network," says Aylin Cakiroglu, another postdoc. "We've already had meetings at Google's DeepMind, BenevolentAI and the Farr Institute, which are now just a stone's throw away. "Our new and exciting surroundings are encouraging everyone to engage and share new ideas and expertise. It's like a new fresh start."

Building awards

The Crick was named 'best new place to work' at the London Planning Awards 2017

The category recognises developments that are well designed, provide high-quality public areas, encourage use of public transport, are energy efficient and provide good access to local amenities.

The Crick was awarded London First's 'Greatest Research and Development' Prize for 2017

The prize recognises organisations that undertake enterprising research or improve the city's science base.

Green Apple Award for the Crick

In partnership with Bywaters, the Crick was crowned National Green Champion for our achievements in sustainable operations, with the highest scores being achieved for innovation, environmental awareness and best practice. The Crick was the only scientific institution to receive a Green Apple Award, a prize which recognises organisations for their environmental efforts.

This article has been taken from A new home for science and discovery, our annual review for 2016/17. A pdf of the review can be found here.

 

  • It's a year since we got the keys to the new Francis Crick Institute building.
  • There are now 1,500 people working in the building, with 17,500 pieces of equipment and more than 3,000 computers and associated items moved across.