The JIF scheme is designed to bring facilities at UK universities to the forefront of international research. Nearly £600m has been awarded to 109 projects in 28 different institutions since the UK Government and the Wellcome Trust - the world's largest biomedical research charity -first funded the scheme. The size of the third round awards varies between £500 000 and £19 m.

Edinburgh University's Materials and Micro-Analysis Centre will determine the chemical composition, texture and structure of synthetic and natural materials. The centre will spend part of the money buying a high-resolution ion microprobe.

The money for the nanotechnology facility at Birmingham will go towards improving the clean room and new equipment for removing and depositing material. "It will be a unique piece of equipment in the UK, if not Europe," says Phil Prewett from Birmingham University. Meanwhile, the upgrades to the atmospheric observatories for the Reading University-led consortium will monitor clouds and water vapours, as well as aerosol particles and pollution drifting towards the UK from north-west Europe. "It's a substantial upgrade to a research area that has had negligible resources," says Keith Browning from Reading University.

The University of Ulster will construct a state-of-the-art building with extensive computer modelling systems for its fire safety engineering research facility. "For the first time we will be able to simulate fires by computer and have actual 'controlled' fires in the same area. It represents a major advance in the study of fires, particularly predicating how they start in the first place, how people react to them and the best way of evacuating buildings," says Jim Shields, director of fire research at the university.