Foundation stone laid for EMBL Imaging Centre

On 1 April 2019 the Foundation Stone Ceremony of the EMBL Imaging Centre took place. Representatives of EMBL and all involved partners took place in the ceremony. Photo: EMBL


A foundation stone ceremony for the new EMBL Imaging Centre, located on the campus in Heidelberg, took place today.

The new EMBL Imaging Centre will give researchers access to the most modern microscopy technologies available. It is made possible by a collaboration between the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the State of Baden-Württemberg (MWK), EMBL, and by further contributions from industry partners (Thermo Fisher Scientific, Leica and ZEISS), as well as by donations from the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation and HeidelbergCement. The EMBL Imaging Centre will open in 2021.

A large cooperation

For more than 40 years, EMBL has performed fundamental research in the molecular life sciences and developed new technologies to further this research. EMBL presently hosts more than 85 highly interdisciplinary research groups across its six sites in Europe. EMBL, which is currently supported by 26 member states, is one of the cradles of the current revolution in light and electron microscopy.

The new EMBL Imaging Centre will be for state-of-the-art high and ultra-high resolution electron and light microscopy techniques, including new developments not yet commercially available. To facilitate this, EMBL is cooperating with the leading microscopy companies Leica Microsystems, Thermo Fisher Scientific and ZEISS Research Microscopy Solutions.

“Cutting-edge research and innovation are only possible through openness and exchange,” said Christian Luft, State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. “At the new Imaging Centre, EMBL is cooperating with leading international partners from industry with a view to further advancing research on high-resolution microscopy. We at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research strongly rely on cooperation with our partners in Europe and around the world. As an intergovernmental science organisation, EMBL is a pillar of this international collaboration.”

The heart of the centre consists of several high-end electron and light microscopes. Among them are microscopes – co-developed at EMBL – specifically configured for linking light and electron microscopy. The combination of these two very different microscopy techniques enables scientists to bring together functional and structural information to gain new insights.

“The new EMBL Imaging Centre fits perfectly into the unique environment of scientific institutions in Heidelberg. And it will shine far beyond the state’s borders,” said Theresia Bauer, Minister of Science, Research and the Arts in Baden-Württemberg. “That is why we are so pleased about this enrichment to our scientific landscape.”

Rendering of the new EMBL Imaging Centre. IMAGE: gerstner architekten, Heidelberg/Render Vision

Rendering of the new EMBL Imaging Centre. Credit: gerstner architekten, Heidelberg/Render Vision

Open to visitors

The new centre will be open to visiting researchers from all over the world. This means EMBL’s expertise in imaging technologies and data analysis will pass on to other locations, promoting scientific discovery in EMBL’s member states and beyond. As such, the EMBL Imaging Centre will function as a training facility for the most advanced imaging technologies.

Up to 300 visiting scientists per year will be able to visit the new centre and get access to the very latest imaging technologies. At the same time, they will be supported by highly qualified experts from EMBL who provide not only training on the microscopes but also on sample preparation and data analysis, tailored to the needs of visiting researchers. An additional aim of the centre is to develop the next generation of imaging technologies for life science applications in close cooperation with industrial partners.

An interactive exhibition is also planned for the EMBL Imaging Centre, which will be housed in the openly accessible part of the building. The exhibition will allow the public to get insights into molecular biology and the power of imaging technologies, as well as how the research done at EMBL affects everyday life.

“EMBL was set up in order to promote molecular biology across Europe, and to be a centre of excellence for Europe’s leading young molecular biologists,” said EMBL Director General Edith Heard. “Training, technology development and providing services to scientists are key aspects of EMBL’s missions. The new EMBL Imaging Centre embodies these missions and extends them to users across Europe and from around the world.”

A rendering of the EMBL Imaging Centre and the rest of the EMBL campus in Heidelberg. IMAGE: gerstner architekten, Heidelberg/Render Vision

A rendering of the EMBL Imaging Centre and the rest of the EMBL campus in Heidelberg. Credit: gerstner architekten, Heidelberg/Render Vision

An outstanding project

With its concept, the EMBL Imaging Centre makes a strong contribution to Heidelberg as the “knowledge city of tomorrow” and cleverly combines architectural with programmatic openness. For this reason, the International Building Exhibition (IBA) in Heidelberg named the EMBL Imaging Centre an IBA project.

The total cost of the EMBL Imaging Centre will be around €48 million. Of this, €28 million will be used for the building itself and €20 million on the initial equipment of microscopes and supporting IT infrastructure. The BMBF is providing the largest financial contribution for the new Imaging Centre with funding of €29.7 million.

The foundation stone ceremony today was attended by more than 100 researchers from EMBL and representatives from the supporting partners. The ceremony opened with a speech from EMBL Director General Edith Heard, followed by speeches from state secretary Christian Luft (BMBF); Baden-Württemberg’s State Minister for Science, Research and the Arts Theresia Bauer; the president of Leica, Markus Lusser; the Chairman of the Managing Board of HeidelbergCement, Dr Bernd Scheifele; and by Dr Jan Ellenberg, project leader for the EMBL Imaging Centre and head of EMBL’s Cell Biology and Biophysics Unit.

Funding partners

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung

Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst Baden-Württemberg

Boehringer Ingelheim Stiftung

Leica Microsystems CMS GmbH

Thermo Fisher Scientific

Carl Zeiss Microscopy GmbH