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Technicians receive support from the UK's largest research funder

27/02/2020

Technicians receive support from the UK's largest research funder
  • UKRI first funder to sign up to Technicians Commitment
  • Move is significant as need for technicians set to increase over the next decade
  • UKRI’s Research England Development fund supports £5 million TALENT programme delivered by Midlands Innovation

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has become the first funder to sign the Technician Commitment, as both a funder, and as an employer. The move means greater visibility, recognition and career development opportunities for technicians.

Technicians are a highly skilled workforce, with specialist skills that go unrecognised despite the crucial role they play in the success of universities and the growth of the UK economy. Around 30,000 technicians currently underpin research, teaching, knowledge transfer and innovation at UK universities and many are researchers and educators in their own right; teaching and training students and researchers at every level.

UK Research and Innovation is the first organisation to become a full signatory of the commitment as a funder. The move means that UKRI will now work with the sector to consider the changes it needs to make to its funding or other policy areas, to meet the commitment.

The move is essential as the overall number of technicians must scale significantly as the UK invests more in research and innovation over the coming decade. The government has committed to doubling the public science budget, alongside increasing private investment.

Professor Rory Duncan, UK Research and Innovation Director of Talent and Skills, said: “We are becoming the first funder to become a full signatory to the commitment because we support the ethos that lies at its heart – that everyone in the research workplace matters.”

“There are a number of challenges facing the technical workforce in the UK – from varying levels of recognition, to skills shortages in some sectors. This is a significant step for UKRI as we want to recognise the individual contribution that talented technicians and specialists make, while also saying that there are some really important issues here that we will be looking at much more closely.”

Kelly Vere, Higher Education Engagement Manager, Science Council and Technician Commitment Lead, said: “Technical colleagues make vital contributions to research and innovation across the UK. We're delighted to welcome UKRI as a signatory to the Technician Commitment and look forward to continuing our work together to ensure technical careers are recognised, valued, developed and aspired to as professional careers in higher education and research institutes.”

The Technician Commitment was first launched in 2017 and requires signatories to meet four challenges:

  • Visibility: Ensure that all technicians within the organisation are identifiable and that the contribution of technicians is visible within and beyond the institution
  • Recognition: Support technicians to gain recognition through professional registration and external awareness schemes
  • Career Development: Enable career progression opportunities for technicians through the provision of clear, documented career pathways
  • Sustainability: Ensure the future sustainability of technical skills across the organisation and that technical expertise is fully utilised

Under the terms of the commitment, UK Research and Innovation will produce an action plan by January 2021 that sets out how it will implement the commitment for the research organisations that it funds. UK Research and Innovation will work with the sector on these proposals over the course of the year.

Supporting technician TALENT

UKRI’s Research England has also today announced that it will inject £3 million into a £5 million project to support the career advancement and development of technicians working in the higher education sector.

The TALENT project, led by the University of Nottingham, and delivered through the Midlands Innovation consortium of eight universities in collaboration with key stakeholder and industry partners, is the largest ever investment into technicians in higher education.

Research England’s Director of Research, Steven Hill, said:

“Technicians are an understudied group in higher education, which means there is a real gap in our understanding of both their role and future skills requirements.

“We also know there is a growing shortage of technicians across all sectors, but these technicians are a vital workforce, the absence of which threatens the UK’s innovative strength and global competitiveness.”

TALENT will run for four years and will collaboratively deliver technician-led activities providing the evidence, tools and case studies to enable the wider sector to plan and develop their technical workforce.

Research England’s investment is from the Research England Development (RED) Fund.


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