What is the Technology Directorate and what is it trying to achieve?
The Technology Directorate is an institute within the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, which sits alongside the eight established institutes.
The primary role of the directorate is to provide the best possible access to analytical resources for researchers within the Faculty. To achieve this, we have established a number of Shared Research Facilities, where analytical equipment is run to a business plan for the benefit of all investigators, regardless of their host institute. In an increasingly challenging funding environment, we aim to maintain and expand the analytical capability of the faculty.
Who works for the Tech Directorate and what do they do?
Unusually for a Faculty level institute, the Technology Directorate has only four staff. Malcolm Jackson is the academic lead; Duncan Robertson is the Head of the Technology Directorate; Ben Mollitt is the Business Manager and Julie Boileau provides administrative support. Malcolm and Duncan are both seasoned research scientists whilst Ben has worked as a University administrator for many years and has a business background.
What is a Shared Research Facility?
Shared Research Facilities, or SRFs, are the means by which the Technology Directorate provides access to large and costly analytical resources. Typically, an SRF will support an analytical technique which underpins many research projects and uses complex and costly instrumentation.
Mass spectrometry and Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting (FACS) are good examples. The performance of SRFs is monitored by a business plan, which in turn is approved and monitored by the Technology Directorate Strategy Group.
Anyone wishing to use an SRF will be charged an access fee, which is used to maintain and run the facility. SRFs are non-profit organisations, with any operating surplus re-invested in the facility.
Each SRF is run by an academic lead who is highly experienced in the field and a valuable source of advice and guidance. As well as providing an analytical service, SRFs are a centre of expertise open to all members of the Faculty.
What is the Technology Directorate Strategy Group and what does it do?
Put simply, the Technology Directorate Strategy Group oversees the work of the directorate. It is comprised of senior academic representatives from each of the Faculty research institutes; a representative from Business Gateway and the Technology Directorate management team. All significant investments by the directorate have to be approved by the strategy group and it also tries to identify new areas which the directorate may wish to move into.
How much does it cost to use an SRF?
Running and maintaining an SRF is costly and a proportion of these costs need to be recouped. Costs for different SRFs vary, as does the way each facility charges. In some facilities, a charge per sample might be appropriate, whilst in others, access may be charged for time spent using it. Charges to members of the Faculty will reflect the running costs of the SRF but will also be competitive with other facilities in the U.K. Basically, if you work at the University of Liverpool, we want you to use the facilities at the University of Liverpool!
I’m a Ph.D. student with a really good idea for an experiment but don’t have any money, how can I use an SRF?
The first thing to do is talk to your supervisor to see if they are happy to fund your idea.
Then you should both make contact with the lead academic of the SRF you’re interested in. They will give invaluable advice as to the feasibility of your idea and the best technical approach to take. Crucially, they will also give an indication of the cost. If it’s a really good idea which might lead to a publication or grant application, they may agree to run some preliminary experiments free of charge.
Alternatively, we run a voucher scheme which your supervisor might be able to apply to for help with the costs.
What SRFs does the Tech Directorate currently support?
We currently support eight SRFs that contain key technologies to underpin all aspects of research from across the faculty. Our current SRFs are:
- Centre for Cell Imaging
- Centre for Proteome Research
- Biomedical Electron Microscopy Unit
- Centre for Preclinical Imaging
- Cell Sorting and Isolation Facility
- NMR Metabolomics Facility
- Computational Biology Facility
- Liverpool Magnetic Resonance Imaging (LiMRIC)
We also work very closely with the Centre for Genome Research who participate in our voucher scheme.
You can find out more about these facilities on this website, where each has dedicated pages.
I’d like to set up an SRF, what’s the first step?
Come and talk to us!
We’re always on the lookout for good ideas to improve access to facilities. The main thing we ask is that you provide tangible evidence that there is a demand within the Faculty. This might involve identifying a group of P.I.s who are willing to make a small contribution towards establishing the facility.
If you’ve got a good idea and some indication of demand, we’ll then discuss the proposal at the next meeting of our strategy group.
Does the Technology Directorate have any online tools to support my research?
There are many analytical facilities within the Faculty which are not supported by the Technology Directorate. We can’t promise you access to any of these facilities but are happy to put you in contact with the people running them.
We have also compiled a searchable database of analytical equipment within the Faculty, which can be accessed from our online tools webpage. This is part of a much larger project in collaboration with the N8 consortium, which will allow you to identify useful equipment not only in Liverpool but right across the north of England.
Finally, to show the kind of results our SRFs can achieve, we've constructed a publication database with free text searching which is also available via the online tools webpage. If you're unsure about whether an SRF is suitable for your project, this is a great tool for finding out.
I’m a P.I. running a large research group, can you help with my costs?
TD support is conditional on becoming an SRF, which means working to a business plan approved by our strategy group. As an SRF, you will also aspire to becoming self-sustainable, so support is likely to be for a limited period of time. Whilst we can’t rule out providing support, it is likely to impact significantly on the way your group is currently managed and as such, needs to be carefully considered.
Will the Technology Directorate market unused capacity on University resources to external, commercial users?
The primary goal of the Technology Directorate is establish a world class research infrastructure for use by university researchers.
However, many SRFs do not routinely work at full capacity and collaborating with external, commercial organisations can provide a means to build valuable links between the University and the business community. We are always happy to talk to users from outside the University whether they are commercial or public sector organisations.
I've used a Shared Research Facility and need to acknowledge the Facility in a paper/poster/talk. How should I do this?
If you've used one of our Shared Research Facilities, or have been awarded a TD voucher please help us maintain our funding by acknowledging us in any papers, posters or talks you give.
To make it easier, we've prepared a document containing some standard acknowledgements, our University of Liverpool logo and our design element. If these don't quite fit the bill, please feel free to use your own.