New funding to support research technical professionals | Chemicals Northwest
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£16 million support will focus on community-driven projects providing training and development for research technical professionals (RTP).

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).

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 11 projects will train RTPs in areas such as:

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

Nurturing specialists

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.

Expert technical talent

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.

Supporting the research workforce

All 11 projects will benefit from the EPSRC’s extensive experience in supporting:

  • research software engineers
  • data wrangling
  • facility managers
  • equipment specialists
  • community development

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.

Funded projects

National Platform for RTPs on AI for Science and Engineering (NPRAISE)

Jeyan Thiyagalingam, Science and Technologies and Facilities Council (STFC) laboratories

Establish a national and interdisciplinary platform that nurtures a community of RTPs who specialise in developing and applying AI to scientific and engineering challenges by providing:

  • training
  • support
  • development opportunities
  • advocacy

STEP-UP

Jeremy Cohen, Imperial College London

The STEP-UP platform is a project to develop digital RTPs and the support ecosystem needed for this.

People in data

Ann-Marie Mallon, The Alan Turing Institute

Will convene a community of data professionals across the UK to encourage knowledge sharing, build capacity through centralising and developing training resources and work as a community to support and professionalise specialist data science roles.

UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems Strategic Technical Platform (UKRAS-STEPS)

Robert Richardson, University of Leeds

Provides academic and administrative leadership to help transform the UK’s RAS research landscape, bringing the community together, strengthening areas of national importance and creating stronger links between:

  • academia
  • industry
  • government funding bodies

Meet Future Needs of Antenna Measurements and Radio Frequency Characterization for Changing Research Culture (MUSCAT)

Max Munoz, Queen Mary University London

MUSCAT will boost the number of RTPs with the key technical skill sets essential to meet the needs of the wireless infrastructure strategy, the UK science and technology framework by 2030, and the upcoming surge in wireless technological advancements.

Developing technical capability and capacity for UK secure data environments

Philip Couch, The University of Manchester

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. 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’

Derren Heyes, The University of Manchester

This 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.

RTP-led national technical platform for materials innovation

Tony Horner, The University of Manchester

This RTP-led national technical platform 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.

Delivering knowledge, skills and opportunities to RTPs nationally leveraging the UK Technology Specialist Network (TSN)

Ian Hancox, University of Warwick

Will provide the TSN and wider RTP community with access to training and development activities that are complementary to those existing through projects such as TALENT, WASC and the recently launched UK Institute for Technical Skills and Strategy.

Technical Platform for Innovation and Knowledge Exchange (T-PIKE)

Edward Codling, University of Essex

T-PIKE will provide training, secondment and placement programme for technicians that give them the knowledge and experience to engage fully with industry. It will also provide entry-level opportunities that will bring new apprentices into the sector, and help ensure that the profession is sustainable.

X-CITED

Anneke Lubben, University of Bath

The X-CITED programme will establish a multi-facetted model to create an RTP pipeline. It will ensure that more experienced RTPs realise their full potential for broader societal benefit through their engagement with industry and the next generation of RTPs.

Further information

About the DRI programme

The UKRI DRI programme was initiated in 2020. UKRI’s constituent councils are working together to create a federated, interoperable, interdisciplinary portfolio of DRI to serve the UK’s researchers and innovators.

Find out more about the UKRI DRI programme.

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