The JIF scheme is funded by the government and the Wellcome Trust, the world's largest biomedical research charity. It was established after several reports found that a shortage of state-of-the-art research equipment was making it difficult for universities in the UK to remain at the forefront of international research. Nearly £150m has been awarded to 37 projects in 22 different institutions in the first round of the scheme.

The VISTA telescope will spend three-quarters of its time conducting a detailed all-sky survey, and will be the first UK project in this field since the 1.2-metre Anglo-Australian Schmidt telescope. Unlike Schmidt, VISTA will use CCD cameras instead of photographic plates to obtain its images. "VISTA will be an outstandingly powerful tool for British astronomy, ” says Emerson. “The whole astronomical community is delighted with this decision.”