Technical Staff and Knowledge Exchange




Midlands Innovation

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This report brings together views from technical and academic staff, and senior leaders across universities, research institutes and funders with case studies which demonstrate the influence technicians’ expertise, knowledge and capability has on Knowledge Exchange. 


TALENT is a project which leads and influences change to advance status and opportunity for technical skills, roles and careers in UK higher education and research. It is led by the Midlands Innovation (MI) consortium of eight universities in collaboration with key stakeholder and industry partners. It is the largest ever investment into technicians in higher education, whose specialist skills often go unrecognised despite the crucial role they play in the success of universities and the growth of the UK economy. 

Research Consulting was commissioned to produce a report to define and explain the role of technical staff in contributing to knowledge exchange in university environments. To do this, Research Consulting undertook interviews with 15 stakeholders, and a focus group with a further 8 stakeholders from a variety of UK universities. A number of case studies were gleaned from the interviews and outlined. 

A key challenge from this work was to make more explicit the role and contribution of technical staff across UK universities towards knowledge exchange. It was found that this needs to be done both internally within technical staff communities, and externally in order to support the future recruitment of a staff group who are critical to the successful operation of universities.  

Technical staff contributions are rarely visible and not highly recognised. As such, recommendations were put forward to address this challenge, and encourage good continuing practice.  These included recruiting technical staff for leadership roles on University KE boards, explicitly recognising the contribution and value of technical staff, re-examine action plans for the Technician Commitment and KE Concordat, improve career development by understanding how KE skills may augment the talents of technical staff and widen the way that KE is communicated as a whole.  

Technicians are essential to research, teaching and KE and it is vital that they are valued and supported to realise their potential.  Up until now there has been very little documented recognition of the role technicians play in KE; this report changes that and I hope will act as a benchmark for higher education and research institutes. The realistic recommendations in this report will make a big impact on how we recognise the whole team in KE and I hope that the sector recognises the benefits and implements changes within their organisations.Professor Trevor McMillan, Chair of Midlands Innovation and Vice Chancellor of Keele University