A key theme of our research and innovation sector strategy is the research estate.
The research estate comprises both physical and intangible assets including equipment, facilities, code and software, intellectual property and even methods, and is central to supporting open and excellent research. It also supports equality, diversity and inclusion and environmental management, as well as communities and economies.
These assets enable researchers to undertake research which maximises public and economic benefit and impactful outcomes. They underpin the pipeline to innovation that attracts investment and talent supporting local economies and communities to thrive.
A key part of our plans over the coming months is a commitment to upgrade Jisc’s equipment.data platform which harvests and supplies a range of sector equipment catalogues. The upgrade will ensure it can support the full range of user applications to make research assets discoverable.
We will take an incremental approach to supporting emerging functionality needs, starting with the use case described which our members and funders want us to meet now.
The updated platform will meet our software standards, and we will design in technical interoperability and sustainability, as well as web accessibility standards. It will also be FAIR by design, meaning it will support the development of data assets that are findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. In practice, they enable higher visibility and reuse potential for data, supporting expanded routes to innovation.
Why this is important
The platform will also ensure that research projects will be able to continue to meet the UKRI terms and conditions of grant (pdf). The institutions and research organisations which use equipment.data to feed their platforms can continue to do so.
Dr Christopher R Wilkinson, equipment sharing platform manager at the University of Cambridge and a member of Science and Engineering South’s equipment sharing group, says:
“Equipment.data is a significant part our local, regional, national and international equipment sharing strategy, it helps us to fulfil UKRI and funder requirements, and our ability to highlight in equipment grant applications the infrastructure in place to provide access to our equipment.”
We also see the need to innovate to help UK research not only map its capabilities but help them utilise those capabilities more effectively.
The recently announced Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) review of the research, development and innovation organisational landscape aims to: “ensure an agile and sustainable system that can respond to future priorities and developments.”
The research estate is in urgent need of transformational data, digital and technology approaches – in support of optimisation and innovation - as a public good. We want to identify and share exemplars and understand challenges and opportunities, mapping a route to sustainability over the long-term.
As well as improving equipment.data, we are looking at how digital, data and technology approaches can support the critical need for additional innovation in the research estate in association with sector partners.
Stephen Parkinson, Research Partnership Manager, N8 Research Partnership said:
“The N8 has championed equipment visibility and sharing, via our policy work, equipment sharing toolkit and the N8 Equipment Database, for over a decade. With that said, the needs of the research and innovation communities are constantly evolving. We are keen to work with partners to explore the potential of developments in data and technology to raise awareness of, and simplify access to, leading-edge facilities within our universities.”
We see the need to more fully understand how research assets link to research outputs and on to outcomes and impact, through persistent identifiers.
We have heard that there is significant potential in remote labs for supporting equality, diversity and inclusion and also about the value in mapping unique assets.
There is a need to support security right across the research estate.
Finally, there is the opportunity to support decisions about renewal and strategic commissioning over time, informing place strategies, policies focused on place, environmental management of the research estate and significant investments in future technology.
Regional consortia are already developing a range of innovative approaches. Midlands Innovation is piloting an approach which brings together equipment in conjunction with the technical expertise and knowledge to improve research outcomes and collaborations. Dr Helen Turner, Director of Midlands Innovation says:
“Whilst equipment sharing is not a new concept, it is time we started thinking about it differently.”
As always, we welcome input, please contact email@example.com.