Imaging software supports the scientific community

The Science and Technology Facilities Council - UKRI were awarded £100,000 by the Government Office for Technology Transfer (GOTT) to improve their software

screenshot of STFC's imaging software which shows the structure of a complex protein.


The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) have a piece of software that allows for the processing of cryogenic electron-microscopy (cryoEM) data.

CryoEM is an imaging technique that allows scientists to examine the structure of microscopic biological materials, such as proteins and viruses, by directing a beam of electrons onto a sample of the material inside frozen water to create an image.

What makes this technique special is that it lets scientists look at larger and more complex proteins and other biological materials than has been possible using other techniques. The software supports solving structures and can be applied to areas such as Covid-19, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s research. Knowing these structures is useful for drug discovery and development, as scientists can look at how molecules interact in response to vaccines and therapeutics.

The knowledge asset solution

STFC used the funding awarded by GOTT to make their cryoEM software easier to use for clients, with the intention of attracting new paying customers. STFC are reinvesting the profit generated by new customers to pay staff to continue to develop the software, provide PhD grants, training, and sponsor events.

Who does this help?

  • Researchers: the improved software is available to researchers to support their work and help them to solve problems like protein structures and develop medicines.
  • The UK economy: improvements to the software has allowed for advances in science, keeping the UK at the forefront of this developing field.
  • The public: STFC are reinvesting profits generated by the sale of the software back into the UK economy by funding PhD grants in high-skilled areas, helping to create jobs. The software will also help pioneering research into the underlying causes of underlying causes of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Funding awarded / role of GOTT

GOTT awarded £100,000 to STFC to make improvements to their software.


Since using the funding awarded by GOTT to make the initial improvements to the software, STFC have developed newer versions with updated features that allow users to carry out end-to-end imaging of their data. STFC anticipate an increase in the number of paying customers once this version of the software is released, as it will be even easier to use.

Quote from organisation

Dr Tom Burnley, Leader of the CCP-EM core team said “The Knowledge Asset Grant Fund has been extremely valuable for the project and the funding flexibility has allowed an extremely rapid development cycle and we would like to thank GOTT for selecting our project for funding. It has been very rewarding seeing the increased capabilities of our software being used by our user base in the alpha testing and we anticipate this supporting a diverse range of structural biology and pharmaceutical research programmes.”

Next steps

STFC plan to continue to improve the software, to allow for higher-resolution imaging and to attract a greater number of users.

Government Office for Technology Transfer
Science and Technology Facilities Council