Equipment data: embrace the sharing economy

Posted by Mr Adrian Cox on 15 May 2015

Companies like Airbnb and Uber have grabbed the headlines as successful examples of the ‘sharing economy’, will join that list by making it easier to identify and make use of advanced research equipment across the UK.

Equipment has always been an important requirement for many researchers, it is therefore vital to be able to find where that instrumental piece of equipment is located. The development of has made this task that much easier.

The Wakeham Review and introduction of the new Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Equipment Guidelines resulted in a need to improve asset and utilisation management. Many institutions therefore developed equipment databases and to ensure a harmonised approach a number of institutions collaborated in the UNIQUIP project which supported the concept for, which became the national equipment sharing portal.

The website uses a relatively simple piece of programming technology that allows searching across published UK research equipment databases through one aggregation portal. It provides a ‘shop window’ for UK Higher Education equipment and facilities, enabling greater accessibility and importantly encouraging conversations with the aim of stimulating greater collaboration in the sector.

This simplicity has resulted in over 40 institutions now contributing with many more in the process of joining, resulting in over 10,500 items of research equipment now being discoverable. It is this success which has been recognised in the ‘UK Efficiency, Effectiveness and Value for Money Report’ (pages 60 & 68 - PDF 2.97KB).

Contributing couldn’t be easier with wider institutional system enhancements reducing the need for duplication of data entry in separate databases. In particular many of the Current Research Information Systems (CRIS) offer equipment modules and with an active user group Pure is advancing the use of their equipment module. Just like publication Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) using persistent identifiers for equipment, eg Uniform Resource Indicators (URIs)or local asset identities (IDs), will enable the linking of research outputs to the equipment used to create them. This captures the very essence of linking open data, demonstrating both data origin and added value of the data aggregation.

The national portal is now moving into a new phase, jointly funded by EPSRC and Joint Information Service Committee (Jisc), and will be considering the potential positioning as a Jisc service. There is a considerable interest and enthusiasm across all partners and stakeholders in exploring this opportunity and ensuring future delivery and development of provides continued value to the research community.


In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Adrian Cox
Name: Mr Adrian Cox
Job title: Project Manager
Section / Team: Research Equipment and Facilities
Organisation: University of Southampton