N8 Research Partnership unveils TALENT Commission response to launch its Research Culture campaign

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The N8 Research Partnership – the collective body for the North’s eight research intensive universities – has published its response to the TALENT Commission report. The N8’s intervention reflects our commitment to strengthening technicians’ vital role in teaching, research and development, in turn boosting the UK’s research and innovation capabilities.  

Published in 2022, the landmark TALENT report was the result of 20 months of research and stakeholder engagement, including the largest survey of UK technical staff working in higher education and research ever undertaken and outlined a set of principles and 16 recommendations, with further specifics to target stakeholder groups.  

Since the initial report’s publication, the N8 has – following the lead of the Midlands Innovation universities – undertaken extensive consultation across its member universities to ensure our application of the recommendations will support technicians across the North of England in their careers.   

The N8’s statement – which can be seen in full here – sets out our collective commitment to advance the culture and environment for research technical professionals who make vital contributions to each of our institutions. 

The statement launches a campaign across the N8 to promote the benefits of a healthier Research Culture across UK universities. As part of the campaign, case studies of best practice and interviews with key figures across the N8 will be showcased across the N8’s website and social media. 

Dr Annette Bramley, Executive Director of the N8 Research Partnership, said: “For too long, technicians have not received the respect, support or recognition they deserve within the research community. The TALENT commission’s report was a vital step in changing that, and our response serves as a statement of intent for how we will improve the working environments and career pathways for research technical professionals.   

“Our response is also statement of intent in terms of building better research cultures within the N8 and – along with our colleagues at Midlands Innovation – standing up and being counted in terms of responding to the commission’s recommendations and acting upon them.  

“We’d like to see this approach adopted more broadly across our sector and encourage other consortia and groups to join us in committing to creating a better culture for technicians. Doing so will not only improve the working lives of this vital workforce, but will in turn help foster an enhanced research culture at our universities and result in improved outcomes across the full research and innovation ecosystem. 

“Central to our Research Culture campaign will be increasing diversity within research and innovation workforces. We believe more must be done to promote the career opportunities available to research technical professionals. We want more people from all backgrounds to know that there is no limit to what they can achieve and what they can contribute as a technician.  Not only that, they will be recognised for their contribution to research that helps improve the world around us. This is just one example of how important it is that the TALENT commission’s recommendations are acted upon – and we are committed to doing just that.” 

The UKRI-Research England funded TALENT Commission was launched to look at technical skills, roles and careers across UK higher education and research with the aim of advancing the status and opportunities of the technical community.  

Technicians underpin the primary activities of universities, creating the foundations for excellence in research, teaching, knowledge exchange and innovation. There are estimated to be 30,000 and 50,000 technicians across the UK, incorporating a vast range of job titles, from technicians to archivists. 

However, despite their importance, the technical community is often overlooked within the research sector. As a result, there can be limited opportunities for career progression and technicians often do not receive the credit they deserve in published research.   

Technician roles in the UK can therefore be ill-defined, and little is known about current and future technical skills requirements – a lack of knowledge that is hugely detrimental to the future of research and innovation in this country.