The Inspiring Science Fund, has awarded £13m to projects including At-Bristol, Aberdeen Science Centre, International Centre for Life in Newcastle, Thinktank in Birmingham and W5 in Belfast. Co-funded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Wellcome, the Inspiring Science Fund supports science centres to rethink what they do and what they offer to the public with funds ranging from £150,000 to £3m.

Through capital development, the fund aims to revitalise the offer of existing science centres, such as new exhibition spaces and learning centres, and the opportunity to develop meaningful engagement with underserved and underrepresented audiences. It provides an opportunity to refresh how science centres are operating and hopes it will lead to more sustainable business models, and contribute to science centre sector development through shared learning.

“Wellcome believes everyone should have the opportunity to explore, debate and shape research,” said Simon Chaplin, Wellcome’s Director of Culture & Society. “Science centres across the UK provide welcoming spaces to help make this happen and to explore the role of science in culture.”

One of the projects will see a new £2m interactive children’s gallery at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum with £1.4m coming from the fund.

Student Opps Grant
Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum is one of five science centres granted awards by the Inspiring Science Fund

The interactive gallery, under the working title ‘MiniBrum’, will deliver Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) learning in a fun and engaging way through a child-sized mini-city in which children and families can safely explore, play and learn in a unique and interactive way.

Due to open in February 2019, the gallery will quadruple Thinktank’s dedicated area for under-eights, helping to enhance the visitor experience.

The playful learning environment, say Thinktank, will encourage children to use maths and science to explain the world around them, helping them to develop the confidence and interest in STEM subjects. Using hands on interactive exhibits and replica objects, the gallery will introduce children to the idea of Birmingham as a city where they live, how the city works and their place within it.

The gallery will be created through co-production with families, children, specialists and educators, alongside expert advisory panels. The plans also include an additional classroom within the space to increase the capacity for school group visits to Thinktank.

“By working directly with children we aim to create a truly unique and engaging space that places joint emphasis on learning through STEM and children’s wellbeing,” said Lauren Deere, Museum Manager at Thinktank. “It is important for us to plan for the future of the museum to ensure we are offering the best experience to visitors, while reaching a growing diverse audience in the city so young people have the opportunity to be inspired by STEM subjects and have fun.”

Applications for the next round of the Inspiring Science Fund are now open. The deadline for preliminary submissions is October 19, 2017.

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Five Projects Funded

At-Bristol has announced that it is going to change its name to We The Curious, marking a change of direction for the centre towards a creative, multidisciplinary space where science and culture can co-exist. Its Curious City exhibition will be based on science questions gathered from the diverse communities of Bristol.

International Centre for Life’s Creative Explorations will combine new interactive exhibitions, a regional outreach programme and three pilot engagement projects to work closely with underserved communities, supported by an overarching organisational review.

Thinktank will develop a new, 1,000m2 interactive gallery where under-8s can explore, play and learn in a STEM-based, dynamic learning environment. It wants to reach new audiences and promote emotional, intellectual and physical wellbeing. This will be supported by a programme of community co-production and early years research.

Aberdeen Science Centre will transform the UK’s most northerly science centre into a future-looking hub. It aims to make learning and discovery accessible for all, inspired by life-long journeys with science through play, education, daily life and engagement with topical issues.

In Belfast, W5 will create new immersive exhibition areas and experiences where visitors can become fully absorbed and engaged. New approaches to technology will enable dynamic content and create more flexibility in how the space can be used.