Scientific Infrastructure - Science and Technology Committee Contents


24 May 2013

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, under the Chairmanship of Lord Krebs, is conducting an inquiry into scientific infrastructure. This refers to large and medium-sized equipment and the e-infrastructure to support scientific research. Such infrastructure requires substantial financial investment and often capital expenditure. It is therefore important that a long-term strategic plan is in place for initial investment, use, operational costs and upgrades.


This inquiry will collect evidence on the large and medium-sized scientific infrastructure currently available in the UK. It will consider future needs and whether an effective long-term strategic plan is in place to meet these needs. It will consider funding and governance arrangements. Finally, it will consider how effective international partnerships and partnerships with industry can be achieved.

The scope of this inquiry does not extend to investment in scientific infrastructure which could be funded from individual grants or within the budgets of individual universities or institutes. The deadline for written evidence submissions is Friday, 21 June 2013.


The Committee invites submissions on the following points, with practical examples where possible (please only answer the questions of relevance to you):

Current availability and status of scientific infrastructure

·  What scientific infrastructure is currently available in the UK, do UK researchers have sufficient access to cutting edge scientific infrastructure and how does this situation compare to that of other countries?

·  Is sufficient provision made for operational costs and upgrades to enable best use to be made of the UK's existing scientific infrastructure? Is it used to full capacity; and, if not, what steps could be taken to address this?

·  What substantial increases in scale would allow new areas or domains of science to be explored (analogous to Large Hadron Collider and Higgs boson)?

Long-term needs, setting priorities and funding

·  What role should the Government play in ensuring that there is an effective long-term strategy for meeting future scientific infrastructure needs?

·  What are the long-term needs for scientific infrastructure and how are decisions on priorities for funding usually made?

·  Is it more important to invest in large, national infrastructure or medium infrastructure?

·  Since the last Comprehensive Spending Review, a series of additional announcements have been made on investment in scientific infrastructure. How were the decisions on investment reached and what have been the impacts of this approach to funding scientific infrastructure?

·  What impact has removing capital spend from the ring-fenced budget had on investment in scientific infrastructure and should the ring-fenced science budget be redefined to include an element of capital spend?

·  If the current funding level is maintained or reduced, what would be the longer term impacts on scientific infrastructure in the UK?

Governance structures

·  Does the UK have effective governance structures covering investment in scientific infrastructure, how do they compare to those of other countries, and are there alternatives which would better enable long-term planning and decision-making?

·  Are effective and fair arrangements in place for access and charging for public and private scientific infrastructure?

·  Are effective structures in place for funding of medium-sized scientific infrastructure and enabling sharing among Higher Education Institutes and Research Institutes?

·  Are regional research alliances proving effective in enabling access to funding for medium-sized infrastructure? Should more be done to support or incentivise approaches to collaborative funding and sharing of medium-sized infrastructure?


·  To what extent do funding structures in the UK help or hinder involvement in EU and international projects, and should the level of UK involvement be improved?

·  To what extent are EU and international programmes effective in promoting collaborative investment in scientific infrastructure projects?

·  What impact does publicly funded scientific infrastructure have in terms of supporting innovation and stimulating the UK's economy?

·  How accessible is publicly funded scientific infrastructure in the UK to industry and small and medium sized enterprises? Is there room for improvement?

·  Are Government policies successful in encouraging industry to co-invest in scientific infrastructure?

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