£20 million donation to revolutionise physics research
David Harding, the founder, chairman and head of research of Winton Capital Management, has pledged to donate £20 million to the Cavendish Laboratory, the University of Cambridge's Department of Physics, to set up and fund The Winton Programme for the Physics of Sustainability.
His gift, the largest donation to the lab since its creation in 1874, will create a new programme for the physics of sustainability, applying physics to meet the growing demand on our natural resources.
"Cambridge has a slogan: 'The Freedom to Discover' and I am hoping I can give the scientists of the Cavendish more freedom to discover," says David Harding. "I studied theoretical physics at Cambridge, and the Cavendish has always had the reputation of attracting the finest minds in the world. While it is not quite as simple as using physics to save the world, this is an opportunity to use, for example, quantum physics to develop materials with seemingly miraculous properties that could combat the growing effect humans are having on the planet. I want to encourage research to keep the skies blue."
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, said: "The University is most grateful to David for this donation, which is truly exceptional both in its generosity and in its vision of translating fundamental discoveries in physics, to meet one of the most pressing needs of our generation."
David's donation will help the Cavendish Laboratory, the birthplace of molecular biology and nuclear physics, cement its position at the forefront of the next revolution in physics. The donation will support programmes that explore basic science that can generate the new technologies and new industries that will be needed to meet the demands of a growing population on our already strained natural resources. (For example, the programme will advance our understanding of how physics can address our increasing energy needs by using renewable power generation.)
The programme's director designate is Sir Richard Friend, the Cavendish Professor of Physics and a world-renowned leading expert on the physics, materials science and engineering of semiconductor devices.
Remarking on the impact of the donation, Sir Richard said: "Advances in fundamental physics have always had the capacity to solve very real problems. This programme will support the people with the radical ideas that bring practical solutions - very much the Cambridge way of doing science."
The programme will provide studentships, research fellowships, and support for new academic staff as well as investment in research infrastructure of the highest level, pump-priming for novel research projects, support for collaborations within the University and outside, and sponsorship for meetings and outreach activities.
Since graduating from Cambridge in 1982, David Harding has become one of the most successful fund managers in the world. Early on he recognised the advantages of hiring individuals with science backgrounds. Winton currently employs over 90 researchers with PhDs or Master's Degrees in subjects including extragalactic astrophysics, mathematics, statistics, particle physics, planetary science and artificial intelligence.
"At its core Winton is much more than an investment manager," says David Harding. "We are a scientific research centre using empirical methods to analyse data. The financial markets may be our laboratory but just like the Cavendish we are driven by research."
Arrangements for handling David's donation are subject to final approval by the University's governing body, the Regent House. The Winton Programme for the Physics of Sustainability is expected to be launched and fully established during 2011.
Added: 16 November 2010