Northern Lights: Fulfilling the manifesto for our city set out in poster over a century ago

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Pride of place in the University of Sheffield’s Firth Court is a poster produced in 1905 which was once displayed on factory walls around this steel city.

It urged local people to help contribute towards a university which would put the very highest quality education ‘within the reach of the child of the working man’. It was a manifesto of what was worth building and then defending.

Earlier this month we celebrated the generosity of donors who have now given over £1.5 million – an important milestone in our fundraising efforts.

It asked the citizens of Sheffield to donate a penny of their wages - to establish the institution which would build the local industries and economy and bring benefits far beyond the city. The people of Sheffield responded in vast numbers.

It also told of a future where the university would be a centre where the treatment of accidents and diseases would be studied. Over a hundred years later The Queen visited the University to open SITraN (the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience), a state-of-the-art research institute, affirming Sheffield as a world leader for research into motor neurone disease as well as other neurodegenerative conditions.

The University of Sheffield was founded by industrialists and local people who believed a University could and should exist ‘for the people’ and that it could improve not only the economy, but health and education. They had a dream and worked together to make it happen. A century later, their faith is still being repaid in ensuring the institution still serves the people of our great city.

In a similar spirit, tomorrow, over 350 staff, students, alumni, and friends of the University of Sheffield – including myself - will tackle The Big Walk 2018 - a marathon-length hike across the Peak District to help raise funds to bring the future of medical imaging to our city – the Sheffield Scanner.

We are working to raise £2 million to establish a ground-breaking MRI-PET facility in Sheffield’s hospitals – the first of its kind in Yorkshire and one of only eight in the UK. MRI-PET is the most advanced imaging technology to date and will transform our understanding of serious conditions like cancer, dementia, heart and lung diseases, MND, Parkinson’s and stroke and the way we treat them in the future. This is a vital investment in the health of people in this region the UK and beyond.

Earlier this month we celebrated the generosity of donors who have now given over £1.5 million – an important milestone in our fundraising efforts. More than 7,500 people have already kindly donated towards this cutting-edge scanner.

The Sheffield Scanner itself combines two powerful clinical imaging tools that provide complementary information used to help diagnose many diseases and assess the effect of current and new therapies. It will capture both of these images at the same time, in a single scan, providing doctors with the most detailed map of how the body is functioning and the causes of disease.

The advanced imaging technology will help to transform our understanding of serious conditions including cancer. It will also bring additional clinical trials to South Yorkshire.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to the appeal to date and so touched by the stories shared by our supporters, many of whom have been affected by the diseases which the scanner will help to treat.

Building work on the scanner is due to begin later this summer and we need to continue the momentum in our fundraising.

The University is matching every £1 raised through the Sheffield Scanner Appeal and since we launched it last year we’ve seen widespread support from staff, current and former students, members of the local community and friends of the University.

As I lace up my walking boots tomorrow, I know I’ll personally have an immense sense of pride in my contribution and that of thousands of others in helping the Sheffield Scanner become a reality.

Many of us walking have relatives and loved ones whose lives have been affected by conditions that would benefit from the improved research and treatment the scanner will provide.

The MRI-PET scanner will transform and accelerate our research by increasing our understanding of the causes, effects and development of disease. With this knowledge we will be able to take exciting discoveries from the laboratory into clinical trials to develop new therapies and better outcomes for patients. Knowledge is our most powerful weapon and technologies such as these present us with incredible opportunities to fight disease on many fronts and help fulfil the manifesto set out in that poster over a century ago.

To find out more about the Sheffield Scanner visit