by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

Belfast’s W5, along with over 40 members of the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC), has today joined the Science Centres For Our Future campaign, which is calling on the government to set up an Emergency Resilience Fund to support the UK’s world-class network of regional Science Centres. W5 has been firing the spirit of discovery for over 19 years and is currently a self-sustaining charity.


Due to Covid-19 W5 closed its doors to visitors in March, cancelled community outreach and education programmes and stopped all events, cutting off every vital revenue stream for the charity.

To highlight the crucial role that UK Science Centres play in making science accessible to all, W5 is joining a nationwide campaign which is being supported by some of the UK’s leading science advocates including Professor Alice Roberts.

The Science Centres For Our Future campaign (#ScienceCentresForOurFuture) supports ASDC’s submission to government, asking it to urgently grant £25 million in Emergency Resilience Funding to secure the future of the whole network of UK Science Centres. Without government support, many Science Centres are at risk.

At a time when science is so important and with major global challenges ahead from both Covid-19 and climate change, Science Centres provide our regional cities and towns with crucial opportunities to access science, in an approachable and engaging way, helping to inspire our next generation of scientists and engineers.

W5 is a valuable community resource that has attracted over 4 million visitors since 2001. During 2018/19 W5 attracted 286,084 visitors, supported 34,845 pupils through schools’ engagement, worked with 512 schools and facilitated 1,909 STEM activities, supporting better life chances for the people of Northern Ireland. Nationally, hands-on Science Centres like W5 welcome millions of people in regions outside London and contribute over £200million per year to local economies.

W5 is so important for Northern Ireland. Many will have fond memories of school visits and family days out, learning new things and being inspired by interactive and hands-on experiences, seasonal events and live science shows. Visitors have returned and told the team at W5 how they have been inspired by their visit to pursue careers in science – and more will follow in their footsteps.

But, in lockdown and without no or reduced revenue streams, Science Centres face a chronic funding gap. As charities, Science Centres like W5 cannot take on large debts as, whilst the furlough has been hugely helpful, costs like utility bills, insurance, payroll, site security and rents still need to be paid.

Victoria Denoon, Head of W5 Experience said:

“Science has never been more important. It is front and centre in shaping government agendas for dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Science Centres are a vital resource for engaging the public with science in an inclusive and innovative environment, inspiring the curious and creative scientists and engineers we need for our future, and providing life-long learning opportunities.

We are proud to support this campaign and encourage our visitors and followers to visit the campaign website to find out how they can offer their support.”

Dr Penny Fidler, CEO of ASDC highlights:

“As a nation and as a global society we have some major challenges ahead, especially in relation to climate and coronavirus. To solve these challenges we need an entrepreneurial and scientifically engaged society. Science Centres unlock science for people, making it accessible and interesting to millions of children and adults each year. Without support we will start to lose these popular cultural resources that offer access into science for all.”

Alice Roberts, Professor of Public Engagement in Science, University of Birmingham and ASDC Patron, adds:

“From W5, Glasgow Science Centre and the Eden Project, to the Centre for Alternative Energy and the Centre for Life in Newcastle – our Science Centres and museums are important as places where people can learn about many different branches of science, get inspired, and satisfy their own curiosity. These centres support hands-on learning for children, all the way through to lifelong learning for adults. Like many other cultural institutions, Science Centres are struggling at this time – they need our support. I hope the government can help them survive, so that they can continue their crucial work, making science accessible for everyone.”

ASDC and W5 are asking the public to support the Science Centres For Our Future campaign in two key ways:

· Share your Science Centre photos and why you love them on social media, using the #ScienceCentresForOurFuture
· Write to your local MPs asking them to support the creation of this Emergency Fund to secure the future of W5 (find a downloadable email on the campaign website)

With one voice championing the Science Centres, ASDC wants to let the government know how important these charitable enterprises are to our regions, and ask the government to save over 40 of these vital cultural and community resources, thousands of jobs, millions of annual visits and billions of individual discoveries.

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