Midlands Innovation partnership’s £5 million commitment to HE technicians

A new project which could become the blueprint for the career advancement of 30,000 higher education technicians is now officially underway.

The innovative new UK-first programme is being delivered by Midlands Innovation, a partnership of eight universities; Aston, Birmingham, Cranfield, Keele, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick, and is being backed by national bodies and key industry leaders.

The technical community in higher education has traditionally experienced a lack of visibility and recognition in the wider sector, but never has the role of technicians been more thrust into the national spotlight than now during the coronavirus crisis.

Technicians play an integral role in academic research, including those that will right now be supporting the UK’s scientific response to dealing with COVID-19, and in the longer term how pioneering research and development can help support the recovery of the UK economy, and drive forward the Government’s aspiration for the UK to become a ‘science superpower.’

The £5 million TALENT programme, which was first announced by Amanda Solloway MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation in late February 2020, is a four-year programme which will be centred on the development of the technical community, piloting initiatives within the Midlands Innovation partnership before sharing learnings across the whole sector. 

The programme will deliver three strands:

  • a policy-based commission approach focused on investigating and providing a set of national recommendations on Technical Talent for the Future
  • a Technicians as Partners pilot which will develop innovative ways to deliver culture change within HE to strengthen technical career opportunities
  • a technical training programme which will include funding for groups of technicians across the MI partnership to access staff development and training to address specific skills gaps.

The TALENT Policy Commission will gather evidence from a range of stakeholders including technicians, academics, university management, funders, students and policymakers before putting together a range of recommendations for the sector in a national report that will provide new understanding on the UK’s technical skills needs of the future. 

The TALENT programme is underpinned by a grant of more than £3 million from the Research England Development Fund. The remainder of the funding is being provided by the Midlands Innovation consortium university members as well as key partners including; the Science Council, Technician Commitment, Wellcome Trust, British Geological Survey, Rolls Royce plc, Unilever and Midlands Engine.