The International Centre for Life is a science village in Newcastle upon Tyne where scientists, clinicians, educationalists and business people work to promote the advancement of the life sciences. The ICFL Trust is a registered charity, governed by a board of trustees, which receives no public funding.
The Life Science Centre is a visitor attraction at the International Centre for Life. It has a changing programme of events made up of temporary and permanent exhibitions, a Science Theatre, a planetarium and a 4D Motion Ride, as well as presenting a range of science-themed special events for children and adults. The Life Science Centre also has an educational programme providing science workshops to schools and other groups.
The Centre was opened by The Queen in 2000. Life's patron is Dr James Watson, Nobel Prize winner and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. The £90 million site was designed by Sir Terry Farrell. Previously it had been a Roman settlement, a hospital and a livestock market. The project transformed a run-down area of inner city Newcastle which now includes a hotel, offices, housing and a multi-storey car park.
Almost 600 people from 35 countries work at Life. Partners in the Centre for Life include Newcastle University; the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI); the NHS Newcastle Fertility Centre and the NHS Northern Genetics Service.
The Centre for Life complex encloses Times Square, where several entertainment venues and bars can be found, as well as space for outdoor events. Times Square is located close to Newcastle Central railway station.
The variety of events taking place at Centre for Life and Times Square attract many tourists as well as local people. In the winter months, Times Square is host to an open-air ice rink The square is often used for promotional purposes by various companies and corporations.
In March 2009 it was the main venue for the UK's first Maker Faire, run as part of the Newcastle ScienceFest. The 2010 Newcastle Maker Faire was held at the Centre for Life and the nearby Discovery Museum. Maker Faire UK returned to the Centre for Life in 2013, at which over 300 hackers, crafters, coders, DIYers and inventors presented their projects alongside installations and drop-in workshops. Maker Faire UK is now an annual event, taking place on the last weekend of April each year at Life Science Centre.
The Science Centre's permanent exhibitions focuses on different aspects of scientific process and discovery. The Curiosity Zone is a 100% hands-on exhibition which encourages creativity and experimentation, inviting visitors to play with the exhibits, collaborating and communicating to make discoveries and creations. The Experiment Zone allows visitors to try out laboratory-style experiments such as DNA extraction using high end equipment used by research scientists. The Brain Zone is the centre's newest section, which opened in March 2016, and explores how the human brain works.
Each year a new temporary exhibition is hosted or launched in May, often a major touring exhibition such as BODY WORLDS Vital in 2014. During the winter months, smaller scale exhibitions are hosted, either on loan from other museums or created in-house.
As well as the exhibitions, the Life Science Centre contains shows throughout the year. The Science Theatre hosts live, interactive and humorous science demonstrations linked to the main exhibition, and the planetarium - the largest in the North - utilising its 360° domed ceiling and immersive projections to present a range of shows and films from traditional astronomy demonstrations to specially created animated films on a range of science-inspired subjects.
The science explainers are a team of science graduates from several disciplines working in the Life Science Centre who present the shows in the Science Theatre, host workshops, perform live science demonstrations around the Centre, and who are on-hand to explain exhibitions and answer your science questions.
Learning programmes are offered to schools, aiming to raise standards in science education for young people and reach up to 40,000 school children annually.
Workshops aimed at specific levels from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 4 are offered to tie in with various aspects of the national curriculum, while the Centre also teaches the practical component of an MSc in Genetics at the Institute of Human Genetics. An MSC in Science Communication is taught here in partnership with Northumbria University. School groups who visit the Centre for a lab or workshop are also able to visit the exhibition for an additional cost.
As well as workshops on-site, the Centre for Life also operates an Outreach Programme. Scientists from the Centre visit schools who are unable to organise a trip to the Centre or do not otherwise have access to laboratories or science equipment, sometimes in impoverished or extremely rural areas.
A variety of educational activities are also open to the public. There is a monthly "Science Club" for children aged 8–14, and a lecture series aimed at adults.
On site partners include Newcastle University, who chose Life for the location of their Institute of Genetic Medicine; the NHS Newcastle Fertility Centre; the NHS Northern Genetics Service and several biotechnology companies.
Newcastle Fertility Centre was established in 1991 at the RVI, later moving to the Centre for Life and officially opened by Professor Lord Robert Winston on 22 February 2000. As well as treating infertile couples, it carries out research and development into new fertility treatments.
Scientists based at The Centre for Life are the first people in Europe - and only the second in the world - to get a license for stem cell research on human embryos. The license will allow work on new treatments for conditions including diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. In 2005 scientists based at the centre were the first to successfully clone a human embryo.
The Institute of Genetic Medicine is a research institute of Newcastle University. This status was awarded in 2001 in recognition of the award to the Institute of the highest possible grading (5*) in the national Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) that year.
The NHS Northern Genetics Service is part of the Institute of Genetic Medicine. The main purpose of the Northern Genetics Service is to provide comprehensive and fully integrated clinical and laboratory services to the highest of standards that can help reduce the incidence of illnesses associated with genetic disease.