Optimising the UK’s university research infrastructure assets

Perspectives and opportunities

Optimising the UK's university research infrastructure assets report cover


This summary report brings together a range of perspectives from the UK’s higher education, research and innovation sector and stakeholder organisations.

It highlights some opportunities for collective approaches to optimise the use, sharing, efficiency and sustainability of research infrastructure assets, from the perspective of stakeholders in universities, regional consortia, funders and sector bodies from across the UK. It is intended as the beginning of a conversation and is for anyone interested in the opportunities we have identified.

Opportunities are presented across the themes of :

  1. Strategy and policy
  2. People and culture
  3. Funding, costing and charging and
  4. Digital, data and technology

Research infrastructure assets

What do we mean by university research infrastructure assets? The Royal Society defines research infrastructure assets in a snapshot of research infrastructures as: “…facilities, resources and services used by the research community to conduct research and promote innovation. They come in an array of forms and sizes, from large facilities and specialist equipment to e-infrastructure networks, libraries and collections. They are found right across the UK and might be physical or virtual, situated in a single location or distributed across multiple sites at home and abroad. At any one time, old infrastructures are being decommissioned or upgraded, new infrastructures are coming online and others are in the initial planning stages.”

In this report we focus on the physical university research infrastructure assets often described as ‘facilities and equipment’ – their technical connectivity, digital footprint and representation in data.

Background and rationale

The UK research and innovation policy landscape continues to change at pace.

There is a growing emphasis on:

  • The importance of ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion in the research and innovation system
  • Recognising the full participation and contribution of everyone in team based research
  • Place-based agendas
  • The increasing priority of multi-disciplinary and multi-sector research in response to urgent societal challenges

This report responds to the need for rapid adaptation to political and economic change, increased costs and pressures on national and international research funding as well as research security, environmental imperatives and reducing research bureaucracy.

Here we focus on the necessity for university research infrastructure assets to be viewed as a collective asset, to enable them to extend their vital underpinning role in collaborative research and innovation, across the UK and internationally.

Download the full report (pdf)