New funding to support research technical professionals

Community groups working to support technical and research software roles are set to benefit from a share of a new £16 million investment. The investment is by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI). Three of 11 projects will be led by senior technical specialists at The University of Manchester.

RTPs are vital to the effective operation of research infrastructure across the UK. They use their skills and experience to support academic and industrial research, as well as train users in the latest techniques and methods. As well as providing valuable additional skills to improve their long-term career prospects the projects will train RTPs in areas such as:

  • software development
  • data management and processing
  • materials science
  • biomolecular engineering

Collectively, these projects offer a range of interdisciplinary platforms that will nurture specialists applying these skills to scientific and engineering challenges, and provide systematic support to the RTP community.

Their work will include both physical and digital training and development in UK universities that has a strategic regional or national focus, and is based around a group of institutions or a particular scientific field or technology.

Among the funded projects will be the strategic technical platform for university technical professionals (STEP-UP). This will work to create a ‘people infrastructure’ of expert technical talent, along with career opportunities to support them. This will ensure that researchers have the skills to keep up with the rapid pace of developments in research computing, data and artificial intelligence (AI).

The national technical platform for materials innovation will be funded to empower the RTP community working in materials innovation and associated manufacturing technology.

The X-disciplinary Challenges from Industry for Technical Expert Development (X-CITED) programme will connect RTPs with industry to enable effective collaborations. The programme will test a trainee RTP talent bank model, training the next generation of skilled technical support, to enable RTPs to take up development opportunities.

Developing technical capability and capacity for UK secure data environments, led by Dr Philip Couch, will work to attract individuals who want to apply technical skills to a societal cause at different career stages and build a community of RTPs across the north-west of England. It will also work to provide at least six short-term student placements for those studying on undergraduate or masters programmes in relevant subjects.

Development of a national facility and technical training hub for ‘biomolecule engineering’, led by  Dr Derren Heyes  project will unite a collaborative team of internationally recognised RTPs with wide-ranging expertise in the area of biomolecule engineering, across the fields of biology, chemistry, automation and computation, and develop a national facility and technical training hub.

And RTP-led national technical platform for materials innovation, led by professor Tony Horner will empower the RTP community working in materials innovation and associated manufacturing technology through training, development and professional networking opportunities, as well as working to increase the visibility of RTPs and break down barriers between silos.

Jane Nicholson, Research Base Director at EPSRC said: "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 and elevate cutting-edge research in the UK, but also foster a sizeable, highly skilled and esteemed research technician network. The UK is a world leader in high-tech research and development and it’s essential that we fully support the full breadth of skills needed for the workforce that deliver this innovation."

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