Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Executive Chair of Research England speaking at the announcement of the ITSS.
The UK Institute of Technical Skills and Strategy (ITSS), funded by Research England, will be hosted by the University of Nottingham working in partnership with a network of organisations, including Gatsby, and institutions across UK higher education and research.
The new institute builds on two initiatives which have begun to address the challenge of the technician skills shortage in academia and research.
The Gatsby-funded Technician Commitment has seen universities, research institutes, professional bodies, learned societies and funders sign up to the initiative, which aims to increase the visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability of technical skills, roles and careers. It has established recognition of the challenges facing the technical community, started to build a national community of practice, and initiated a commitment from more than 110 organisations. The Technician Commitment will be hosted at the new institute upon its inception.
The TALENT programme, awarded by Research England to the Midlands Innovation consortium in 2020, has begun to build sector wide strategic insight into the UK’s HE and research technical skills base through its TALENT Commission. It has also designed, developed and piloted practical interventions to address the challenges highlighted by the Technician Commitment.
Michelle Rea, Gatsby’s Director of Communications and lead on the Technician Commitment said:
“In the six years since the launch of the Technician Commitment, the pace of impact and achievement in this space has been phenomenal and huge progress has been made in the key areas of visibility, recognition, career development, and sustainability of technicians.
“We are delighted that with the establishment of the ITSS the Technician Commitment can be embedded into this important new institution.”
The new institute will focus on technical skills, roles and careers, and their contributions to the economy and how the technical talent and know-how required to fulfil the government’s ambitions for the UK to become an innovation nation can be delivered.
Dr Kelly Vere, Director of Technical Strategy at the University of Nottingham and Programme Director of the Technician Commitment, said: “We frequently discuss the emerging technologies needed to drive innovation, but rarely do we consider the expert technical skills, roles and careers required to use these technologies. Technical expertise is critical to the success of UK Higher Education (HE), research and innovation, and the growth of the UK economy.
“The UK has a shortage of technicians across all sectors, and there are significant ED&I challenges impacting the current workforce. These factors pose a serious threat to the UK’s innovative strength and global competitiveness. We are delighted to be establishing the UK Institute for Technical Strategy to ensure that we have the technical capability and capacity across the country to realise the UK’s ambitions of being a research and innovation superpower.”
ITSS will be the source of sector expertise on technical skills, roles and careers in UK HE and research and will form four new hubs focussed on key areas:
- A research hub focussed on technical roles, skills, careers, education, and training to expand sector understanding of the technical workforce through academic research. It will help to address gaps in knowledge in this area and work with funders to attract new investment for future research.
- A policy hub, working with partner organisations and the extended Technician Commitment community to inform, influence and interpret policy pertaining to technical roles, skills and careers in HE and research.
- A practice hub to develop (and evaluate) innovative approaches to culture change, piloting and evaluating them before rolling them out across the sector. Examples include career pathway models, apprenticeship schemes, workforce planning tools, and flagship and bespoke learning and development opportunities.
- An engagement hub to connect the technical community to government, professional bodies, funding bodies and other organisations in order to build a strong, connected community through engagement and events.
Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Executive Chair of Research England, said: “Technical skills and technicians’ roles are an essential element of the UK research and innovation system. As such, I’m pleased that Research England funding is supporting the new UK Institute of Technical Skills and Strategy.
“The institute will enhance the skills base for technicians, help to raise the visibility of their vital contribution to UK research and innovation, support their career development, and tackle a shortage of technicians.
“I look forward to seeing the impact the ITSS will have for technicians nationally and across sectors – from museum archivists, right through to space technologists.”