At the heart of START sits the community of co-investigators whose work in the relevant scientific disciplines is world-leading in their fields. They support a wider group of students and post-doctoral assistants whose contribution to START is vital to nurture future capacity and leadership in the African scientific research community. Working on experiments at the UK’s synchrotron, Diamond Light Source, START researchers and students will bring insights to sustainable energy and improvement in health that will have long-lasting legacies across Africa. 

Africa does not yet have a synchrotron light source, but African researchers are keen to apply synchrotron techniques to their research problems. START funds research posts in Africa and the UK, focusing on two crucial research areas to African development, energy and healthcare.  

600 million people (70%) in sub-Saharan Africa live without electricity, and a reliable electricity supply is one of the most powerful tools for lifting people out of poverty and ending their dependency on aid.  START researchers will investigate energy materials, including solar cell research and the development of catalysts and batteries.

How START is managed

START is organised through a number of committees: Firstly, a Leadership Committee oversees the management of the project overall to ensure research is on track and will address the aims of the programme. Secondly, to spot new ways of working and to enable discussion of fresh aspects of research within scope of START an Opportunities Committee is led by START’s Post-Doctoral community. And finally, to enable an independent view of START’s direction a group of high-ranking experts in their fields from industry and NGO’s will make up an Advisory Panel which can be drawn on for impartial guidance. 

START will lead the research direction as it engages with scientists, representatives from industry in the energy sector and relevant non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across Africa. Further, in developing new energy materials and structural biology research START will be helping to build the next generation of researchers and research leaders in these important areas of study through training and skill development. 

Diamond Light Source

START is administered from offices at Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron. Expertise in running state-of-the–art synchrotron techniques and methodologies at Diamond lies at the heart of the aims of START. Diamond will provide the beamlines for undertaking scientific research relevant to the START research strands. 

The synchrotron at Diamond provides opportunities for researches to look closely at how the structures and surfaces of materials behave and will support the detailed examination of energy and biological materials. Synchrotron techniques can help researchers understand the way certain materials are constituted and how they behave under extreme conditions. This will for example help build an understanding of proteins and enzymes to enable targeted pharmaceutical intervention with new medicines. In the fields of interest that START covers.


The results of the START-led research will lead to new energy materials and improved healthcare that are global priorities. The outputs from START will meet the requirements for increased energy demand from sustainable sources and better medical provision for the wider population. The primary beneficiaries will be African countries and their communities, through improved infrastructure for clean energy delivery, storage and efficiency to drive towards Science, Technology and Innovation based economies as well as providing a strengthened understanding of diseases that will promote health benefits that ultimately could see world-wide improvements. 

The research being undertaken in the START project is directly in line with the development aspirations of the African Union Commission who have a stated ambition to ‘transform Africa from traditional to modern sources of energy and ensure access of all Africans to clean and affordable electricity’ and ‘Develop/implement strategies for the growth of the pharmaceutical industry in Africa’. More widely, any improvements (or methodologies) nurtured by START could be extended to other continents, potentially creating a broader network of societal beneficiaries including the energy and pharmacology sectors. 

Structural determination of particular materials is at the core of scientific progress using synchrotron-based science. The strands of research to be undertaken through START, on energy materials and structural biology, will use synchrotron radiation to examine the material structure of materials of vital importance to African populations. It is essential that the countries in Africa expand their own capabilities to produce the next generation of appropriate energy materials and development of cures for relevant diseases. 

A key aim for START is to provide education on synchrotron techniques and the results achieved by its research. START will work with the academic and wider scientific communities on research which through publication, presentations and other outreach activities including online communication will disseminate the findings to a world-wide audience.

You may have noticed that START has a membership page. This is for  Co-Investigators, their Post Doctoral Assistants and collaborators. If you feel you need to access that page please get in touch with the START Project Coordinator. Lorna C Goldsmith at GCRF_START@diamond.ac.uk

You may have noticed that START has a membership page. This is for  Co-Investigators, their Post Doctoral Assistants and collaborators. If you feel you need to access that page please get in touch with the START Project Coordinator.