The benefits of equipment sharing for research and innovation in the Midlands

Flow Cytometry

Improving access to equipment for researchers across the region

State-of-the-art equipment is integral to advancing research and innovation, but a key challenge for any scientist in securing equipment is the financial cost. Securing equipment accumulates several costs for an institution: procurement, maintenance, and development. Given that equipment can have a short shelf-life due to the rapid advances being made in technology, securing funding for equipment comes into competition with the wide range of interests and needs of a university.  

The partner universities at Midlands Innovation offer a cost-effective solution: equipment sharing. From electron microscopes to 3D printers, sharing equipment is making scientific research more accessible across the region. To assist in this process, Midlands Innovation have established an equipment database which catalogues over 1,000 items of research equipment. 

How is equipment sharing impacting flow cytometry?

Equipment sharing is encouraged across all Midlands Innovation networks. The Midlands Innovation Flow Cytometry Group’s collaboration illustrates the significant impact of shared equipment for researchers. Committee meetings allow representatives from each Midlands Innovation partner to discuss technological updates, industry news, relevant research, while planning for the contents of the online open access training and the annual in-person Midlands Innovation Flow Cytometry Meeting.  

Each partner university brings its own speciality to the table, such as the University of Birmingham, which houses the only available mass cytometer in the Midlands. Equipment sharing across the network allows for greater access and sharing of knowledge across these specialities, helping to assist in the advancement of research across several disciplines in the Midlands, from immunology (Covid-19, Dengue virus, cancer) to broader Life Science research fields (cell biology, plant sciences, environmental sciences). 

MI Flow Cytometry Group Committee members Dr Guillaume Desanti (University of Birmingham) and Dr Steven Servin-Gonzalez (University of Warwick) share insights on the benefits of equipment sharing for flow cytometry.  

Benefits of equipment sharing in practice

Having received funding from MI Talent, Dr Servin-Gonzalez shadowed Dr Desanti at the University of Birmingham to develop his knowledge of cell sorting technology. The funding allowed Dr Servin-Gonzalez protected time to develop this knowledge, to learn best practices in this field, and to share this when returning to his facility at the University of Warwick.  

Reflecting on this experience, Dr Servin-Gonzalez highlights some of the key benefits of equipment sharing for researchers: 

  • Improve experiments: the technicians operating the equipment have expertise that can help to improve the experiment and increase its chances for success.  
  • Cost efficiency: universities can save money by sharing resources. 
  • Accessibility: sharing equipment across institutions increases opportunities for researchers to access equipment that is vital to their research.  

Dr Desanti notes further benefits of equipment sharing beyond the sharing of knowledge: 

  • Resilience: It can increase the resilience of the services provided by each Facility when an instrument is out-of-order. For example, in late 2024, the University of Nottingham sent a user to the University of Birmingham when their cell sorter was waiting for repair. 
  • Collaboration: The coordinated creation of training materials that benefit users from all Universities, e.g. the four recorded training videos published on the Midlands Innovation website. 
  • Networking: It can strengthen the networking between Facility staff members as well as between Facility users across institutions.  

Sharing equipment not only makes research more accessible – it creates more opportunities to share knowledge, best practice, and to network with professionals on a local level.  

 

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