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The University of Southampton

Power engineers switch to unique new lab

Published: 7 September 2004

Last year's widely disruptive power cuts in the UK, Europe and the United States demonstrated the extent to which we rely on electricity, and the catastrophic consequences to all aspects of our lives when the supply fails. A unique facility being opened this week at the University of Southampton is intended to help avoid these damaging incidents by providing the specialized research and testing facilities on which the power supply industry depends.

This Friday (10 September) sees the opening of a major extension to the University's High Voltage Laboratory, more than doubling its size through the creation of a new high voltage hall, in addition to new laboratories providing important new research and testing facilities.

Guests at the ceremony will represent the electricity industry and academic research groups throughout the UK. The Laboratory will be officially opened by the University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bill Wakeham, accompanied by Mrs Susan Davies, who will name the Lab after her husband, the late Professor Tony Davies. It was Professor Davies's vision that led to the building of the Laboratory extension, but sadly he died shortly after completing the plans. The High Voltage Laboratory is therefore a fitting memorial to his life and work.

Combining academic research and commercial testing, the new Laboratory will play a major part in enabling the electricity power supply industry to undertake the research and consultancy on which it depends for successful electricity transmission in the future. With the decline of commercial research and testing facilities as a result of reorganization in the power supply industry, the UK desperately needs specialized research laboratories of this kind.

"Power engineering is a central feature of our work," says Professor Wendy Hall, Head of the School of Electronics and Computer Science. "The Laboratory has been extended and updated as a result of Government investment, a significant recognition of the value of our research capability. We are also one of only three UK universities selected to be founding partners in the Power Academy initiative, which will train new graduates for the industry. We now have one of the largest and best-equipped high voltage labs in Europe and fully intend to share our expertise with the electricity industry."

Notes for editors

  1. The opening event takes place from 11.30 am on Friday 10 September. Speeches will take place at 12.15, followed by the plaque unveiling. The equipment in the Laboratory is highly visual. If you wish to send a photographer or camera crew, please contact Joyce Lewis (023 8059 5453), to arrange access to the Laboratory in advance of the event. The Tony Davies High Voltage Laboratory is situated on the north-east of the Highfield Campus, on University Crescent.
  2. We can supply very high quality and stunning images of research in the Lab, taken by Russell Sach. Contact Joyce Lewis (tel.023 8059 5453; email
  3. Professor Tony Davies was a highly respected member of the University's staff, whose vision shaped the development of high voltage engineering research in the UK. He was Professor of Electrical Power Engineering from 1994 until his untimely death in July 2002, but had originally joined the University in 1978. In recognition of his enormous personal contribution to the establishment of a world-class high voltage laboratory, the Council of the University decided that the extended laboratory should be named in his honour.
  4. Funding for the new building came from the Government's Science Research Investment Fund, and from the University of Southampton.
  5. The University of Southampton School of Electronics and Computer Science is recognized as the UK's leading centre for research and teaching in electrical and electronic engineering. The School has consistently received top ratings, both for its research (maximum 5* grade in the national Research Assessment Exercise, denoting research of international excellence), and its education (maximum 24 points from the UK Quality Assurance Agency). In 2004 Southampton was named one of only three universities to be a founding academic partner in the IEE UK Power Academy, which will provide the next generation of highly trained power engineers.
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