Biological Sciences

Building a New Biology

Our strategic project ‘Building a New Biology’ is an ambitious plan to grow our research and teaching capacity, quality and outputs to support intellectual discovery and generate health, social and economic benefits.

Building a New Biology

The University of Edinburgh has been breaking new ground in biological sciences since 1695, when the first Chair of Botany was created. Since then, biology has undergone many revolutions, from Darwin’s theory of evolution, to the discovery of DNA, to mapping the human genome.

Tower and Hive impression

Edinburgh’s rich history of teaching and research spans all of these revolutions and has given us a worldwide reputation for excellence.  We are at the leading edge of research and development in topics such as infection and health, ageing, the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria and the need for sustainable fuels and secure food sources. 

We are now launching an ambitious development programme that will see us delivering the next revolution in biology. New technologies have given us a new understanding of the science of life. We can now not only observe and measure living organisms and processes; we can examine and model the basic building blocks of life, and we can test our understanding through designing new biological constructs. In short, we can learn through building.

Our strategic project ‘Building a New Biology’ is an ambitious plan to grow our research and teaching capacity, quality and outputs to support intellectual discovery and generate health, social and economic benefits.

Investment and Impact

To realise the full potential of the New Biology requires facilities that are flexible and adaptable to modern scientific demands. We plan to invest some £140M over the next five years to develop a state-of-the-art complex of buildings to house our teaching and research and to engage with our community. Our vision is to create one of the world’s finest research clusters for the Biological Sciences.

In doing so, we aim to create an integrated environment that will help us to make a bigger impact on global health, wealth and welfare. The anticipated benefits will also be felt closer to home: our planned growth will deliver jobs and value to the Edinburgh economy, and our improved facilities will support wider engagement with schools, businesses and communities across the city.

The baseline economic impact of the School of Biological Sciences has been estimated as a minimum of:

  • £161 million per year and 2,202 jobs in the UK economy;
  • £80 million per year and 1,562 jobs in the Scottish economy; and
  • £49 million per year and 1,042 jobs in the Edinburgh economy.

Our aim is to double this impact through Building a New Biology.

A Gateway to Biology

Our estates development programme at the King’s Buildings will completely redevelop existing buildings to create a physical and metaphorical heart for Biological Sciences: a gateway to biology in Edinburgh, a focal point for outreach activities, and a magnet for attracting partners to enable collaborative work.

The project centres on redevelopment of the Darwin Building, a 1960s towerblock. The re-engineered and re-clad building will provide state-of-the-art laboratories for more than 350 researchers. With an advanced technology hub and specialist research facilities, this will provide space for co-location and growth in strategic areas of research: Epigenetics; Infection and Global Health; Synthetic Biology and Food Security.

Breakthroughs in science often occur at the interface between disciplines: collaborative and interdisciplinary working across these themes will lead to leaps forward in research and ultimately its impact for society. New facilities for teaching and social learning will be built to provide more opportunity for students and staff to engage with colleagues and with industry partners, to ensure that the next generation of biologists being trained at Edinburgh are well prepared for 21st century careers.  Public spaces, artworks and outreach activities will support interactions with our local community and provide opportunities for schools to engage with our science.

When completed in 2020, the New Biology complex will integrate existing and new buildings into one cohesive mini-campus with a total of 30,000m2 of research space housing more than 800 scientists – a powerhouse of research and innovation.

Project details

The New Biology complex will link existing and new buildings into a cohesive mini-campus.

The complex will centre on the Darwin Building which will be re-engineered to improve appearance and sustainability and to double capacity

The Darwin Building will house a Technology Hub, co-locating state-of-the-art equipment to underpin research activities and to provide a magnet for collaboration.

The new BioHive will be an inspirational building designed for a range of functions: for staff and students to meet, study and socialise; for scientific conferences and seminars; for industrial engagement; for school visits and for outreach to the public.

The BioHive will become a Gateway to biology and to the King’s Buildings campus.

Sustainability features

The University is committed to developing low carbon buildings. Sustainability features for the New Biology project include:

  • Connection to the University’s Combined Heat and Power network.
  • Low energy lighting and intelligent ventilation systems.
  • Exceptional levels of thermal insulation to ensure efficient environmental control.
  • High quality materials with a long lifecycle and high recycled content.