Report highlights impact of EPSRC-funded research equipment

Supplementary content information

An analysis highlights a return of £3.40 for every £1 of investment by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in research equipment, and showcases the wider impact of this investment on skills and collaboration.

Access to the best equipment and facilities is vital for researchers to undertake cutting-edge research. To support world class laboratories with scientific infrastructure and equipment, EPSRC operates flexible routes to funding depending on the needs of individual projects and the research communities.

EPSRC has funded a wide range of state-of-the-art research equipment including strategic equipment for multiple users and equipment for individual research projects, and has a strong commitment to support the research process through the provision of internationally competitive scientific infrastructure going forward.

To understand the socio-economic impact of its investment in research equipment, EPSRC commissioned a study by Cambridge Policy Consultants to explore the value and impact of mid-range research equipment (i.e. with a value between £138,000 and £14 million) funded over the past ten years. Although similar studies have been undertaken on large-scale facilities, this is the first such study focused on mid-range instrumentation.

Significant wider impacts captured in the study include evidence of the positive benefits of co-design and co-production of equipment and of the positive impacts of industry collaboration.

For example, micromechanical characterisations methods developed in the Materials for Fusion and Fission Power project led by the University of Oxford have been implemented by Rolls-Royce, resulting in cost savings of more than £5 million each time the test is run.

There was also significant impact on the development of skills.

The Scale-up Facilities for Resource Efficient Processing of High Performance Alloys project led by Brunel University established a unique national scale-up facility for light metal casting research to bridge the gap between fundamental research and industrial applications. The equipment has led to the attraction of academic talent with the rapid expansion of the Advanced Metal Casting Centre (AMCC) from fewer than 50 staff in 2015 to nearly 100 in 2017.

Reference: PN 15-18