What is driving increased equipment sharing?

Why should universities share equipment?

Equipment sharing has been at the heart of the efficiency agenda  since 2010. Put simply, creating and providing a searchable listing of your research facilities and equipment may enable greater collaboration and improve the efficiency and utilisation of existing equipment and facilities.

National policies and drivers for equipment sharing

Our market research carried out in early 2016 found that research funders have put in place requirements to incentivise sharing in institutions and with other stakeholders. These include making sharing of assets a requirement of the grant (e.g. RCUK) and imposing greater contributions on individual institutions for the purchase of equipment for a single research project (e.g. EPSRC).

Building on their 2015 Efficiency, effectiveness and value for money report, Universities UK (UUK) have been working with partners to support greater levels of asset-sharing and utilisation across the sector, by focusing on four areas:

  • Culture and academic practice
  • Policy frameworks and incentives
  • Evidencing, accountability and impact
  • Infrastructure and support mechanisms

UUK are now leading a working group to help implement asset sharing in the sector, with Jisc leading the technology strand of this. NCUB have developed an online brokering tool, Konfer, to help businesses find the relevant expertise and assets they need from within institutions. This uses data from the national portal. NCUB are also gathering of evidence to support the case for the effectiveness of collaboration and asset sharing on productivity.

Is regional sharing happening near you?

Clusters of research intensive universities are also focussed on asset sharing. The N8 Research Partnership is a collaboration of the eight most research intensive universities in the north of England. N8 has developed policy and guidance for efficiency in the HE sector, focussed on equipment sharing and the opportunities and barriers that exist.

Their report Sharing for Excellence and Growth, examines the opportunities, barriers and current best practice for sharing equipment between research groups. They’ve also researched the Implementation of Cost-Sharing Exemption in Universities, examining the continued barriers to tax-efficient sharing of facilities. Traction from sharing equipment more efficiently is likely to enable collaborations and longer term research capital investment planning.

Now for Jisc’s equipment.data

In adopting the national equipment.data aggregator from its developer the University of Southampton, Jisc will be supporting universities to share equipment with partners across the research base. We aim to increase the reach and use of the national service. This will support the diversity and long-term health of the UK sector, developing research collaborations and enhancing the student experience through research-led teaching.

Over the next six months, we are focussing on improving user experience by developing the search capabilities. We are going to try to define how to integrate booking systems. We will also be building in key performance indicators and usage analytics to best show savings, efficiencies and benefits.

Next Steps

We would like to continue to engage with institutions, researchers and other stakeholders in order to develop and enhance the national equipment sharing infrastructure. We welcome any new institutions that would like to publish their equipment on the portal.

If you have ideas, suggestions, comments, questions, or would simply like to be involved, do not hesitate to drop me a line at caroline.ingram@jisc.ac.uk

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