The University of Manchester

Fresh funding allocated to assist research technical experts

Community groups supporting technical and research software roles are in line to receive a portion of a fresh £16 million investment. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI) are behind this new funding initiative, with three out of the 11 projects being spearheaded by academics from the University of Manchester.

Research Technical Professionals (RTPs) play a crucial role in the smooth running of research infrastructure throughout the UK. They utilise their expertise to aid academic and industrial research, as well as train users in cutting-edge techniques and methods. In addition to enhancing their long-term career prospects, the projects will offer training to RTPs in areas such as software development, data management and processing, materials science, and biomolecular engineering.

These projects collectively provide interdisciplinary platforms that will support specialists in applying these skills to scientific and engineering challenges, while offering systematic assistance to the RTP community. The work will involve both physical and digital training and development at UK universities, with a focus on specific regions or scientific fields.

Among the funded projects is the strategic technical platform for university technical professionals (STEP-UP), which aims to cultivate a pool of expert technical talent and provide career opportunities for them. This will ensure that researchers possess the necessary skills to keep pace with advancements in research computing, data, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Other funded projects include the national technical platform for materials innovation and the X-disciplinary Challenges from Industry for Technical Expert Development (X-CITED) programme, which will foster collaborations between RTPs and industry. The projects aim to train the next generation of skilled technical support to enable RTPs to seize development opportunities.

One project, led by Dr Philip Couch, will focus on developing technical capability and capacity for secure data environments in the UK, while also providing student placements for undergraduates and master’s students. Another project, led by Dr Derren Heyes, will establish a national facility and technical training hub for biomolecule engineering.

Professor Tony Horner will lead the RTP-led national technical platform for materials innovation, which aims to empower the RTP community working in materials innovation and manufacturing technology.

Jane Nicholson, Research Base Director at EPSRC, stated: “Through these 11 new projects, the Strategic Technical Platform funding will help cultivate a thriving, dynamic, and vibrant community of research technicians. This community will not only support cutting-edge research in the UK but also build a highly skilled and esteemed research technician network.”

The STP investment aligns with UKRI’s Research England funded TALENT programme and the UK Institute for Technical Skills and Strategy (ITSS), which have provided strategic insights into the technical workforce in higher education and research in the UK.

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