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New report highlights impact of sharing equipment across higher education sector

26 Feb 2015

Innovation, increased productivity, and maximum value for public investment are being enabled by more efficient and effective deployment of research equipment, according to a new report from the N8 Research Partnership.

Professor Luke Georghiou was co-author of the N8 report

The report, entitled Raising the Return – Benefits and Opportunities from Sharing Research Equipment, has helped to shape the Efficiency, effectiveness and value for money report released today by Universities UK and commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

In the Raising the Return report, the N8 Research Partnership found that over the last three years, universities have made considerable progress in ensuring that maximum value is delivered from investment in the UK's science infrastructure.

Authored by Luke Georghiou, Vice President, Research and Innovation at The University of Manchester, and Sarah Jackson, Director of Research, Partnerships and Innovation at the University of Liverpool and former Director of the N8 Research Partnership, it reveals that significant progress has been made in developing an infrastructure to support equipment sharing, with:

  • More than 25,000 items now easily located by potential users through being classified on databases across the N8 universities, the M6 universities in the Midlands, Scottish universities and the Science and Engineering South consortium.
  • University equipment and facilities are being increasingly shared with business to drive innovation, with major cost-savings being achieved, for example 20% on aircraft wings for Airbus UK.
  • Equipment sharing is increasing research productivity across the UK, with examples in the report including the five world-leading High Performance Computing regional facilities shared by 22 universities.

The report, which highlighted a number of Manchester cases as examples of good practice, recommends a series of further steps needed to deliver the full benefits available from equipment sharing.

Co-author Sarah Jackson commented: "The study has demonstrated that UK universities have risen to the challenge of efficient use of research assets. However, to deliver the full benefits of capital equipment sharing more can be done, including equipment roadmaps being put in place to encourage long term capital investment planning and the implementation of targeted incentives to accelerate culture change - such as sharing credit on large grants and ensuring that funding bids include mechanisms for sharing as key criteria."

Dr Peter Simpson, Director of the N8 Research Partnership, said: "The N8 Research partnership has pioneered this activity over the past three years and will continue to seek to advance this agenda. The progress made so far is encouraging, with an increasing evidence base that sharing access to costly resources not only maximises value but drives innovation and cross-sector collaboration."

To view the report, click here.