The Natural History Museum has announced plans to open a major new global research hub in Shinfield. 

The proposal, subject to planning permission from Wokingham Council, would see the facility built at Thames Valley Science Park, alongside a science and digitisation centre. If approved, it would expect to be completed by 2026. 

The government-funded space would house around 27 million museum artifacts currently at risk of damage and deterioration – the biggest move from its collection since the 1880’s - as the current storage conditions are no longer suitable. 

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The museum says that this would support a range of projects aimed at tackling the challenges facing the planet, such as biodiversity loss and finding ways of extracting natural resources more sustainably. 

The Science Park is owned and run by the University of Reading, which won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize last year for its work on climate change. 

Director of the Natural History Museum, Doug Gurr, said: “The University of Reading has a world-class reputation for teaching and research and there is enormous scope for collaboration on shared areas of scientific specialisms.” 

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The science park is already home to the Cine Valley project, a film and television production hub, as well as the Gateway Building - home to the offices and labs of biomedical, biotechnology and health sciences companies.  

The British Museum is also planning an Archaeological Research Centre on the site – a specialist unit housing thousands of ancient sculptures, mosaics and other artefacts. 

Mr Gurr added: “We look forward to joining the lively community of ambitious, knowledge-based organisations.” 

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The building would accommodate about a third of the museum’s 80 million-strong collection, from microscopic creatures and sediment from the ocean floor to the remains of large mammals like whales.  

It would also have state-of-the-art storage and conservation facilities, digitisation and imaging suites, laboratories, cryogenic facilities and high-end computing areas.  

The museum has digitised just six per cent of its data so far, but this has already helped with projects like finding wheat crops which are more resistant to climate change and researching how Covid-19 may have crossed from animals to people.  

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Executive member for planning and local plan, Councillor Lindsay Ferris, said: “Having declared a climate emergency in 2019 and to playing as full a role as possible in reducing our carbon footprint to net zero by 2030, we are proud that an organisation which can make such a difference on an international scale wants to be based here. 

The museum will seek the community’s views on its proposal before submitting a planning application. 

Vice-chancellor of the University of Reading, Professor Robert Van de Noort, said: “This is an exciting development for the University of Reading. It could provide significant opportunities for our academics and students, as well as bringing benefits to the broader local area."