Times are changing for the higher education sector in Australia. Due to budget cuts and increasing international competition, many universities are recognising the importance of developing state of the art research facilities in order to attract funding opportunities, more students and world-class researchers into the future.
In order to achieve this, the design, construction, operation and maintenance of innovative research facilities is critical.
Monash University is one institution who knows what it takes to design and develop world-class research facilities in order to attract more dollars for their business.
With a net research income of 314 million dollars at the end of 2014, Monash topped the NHMRC funding across Australia last year and continues to partner with external providers such as Pfizer and Siemens in order to attract leading researchers globally.
Ahead of Research Facility Design and Development 2015, Julie Rothacker, Director, Platform Operations and Strategy, Vice-Provost Office of Research and Research Infrastructure at Monash, explores the strategies the university is using to align research needs with design and construction of their facilities, and how other universities can avoid mistakes in planning and development phases to deliver functional and sustainable research facilities.
Overview: Monash’s research facilities at a glance
Monash is home to 24 technology research facilities and currently employs over 3500 academic researchers. The University has developed a coordinated infrastructure strategy which is centrally supported and aligned with the University’s overall research strategy in order to utilise equipment to its full capacity.
The main objective is to ensure we are able to provide world-class research facilities to our researchers, collaborators and industry. In doing so, we have built facilities with peak instrumentation, often unique to Australia. We have lifted the instrumentation out of the schools and departments to coordinate and manage effectively in a platform facility. This ensures there is no duplication with equipment, an ability to produce clear efficiency gains and that our equipment is well maintained and not under-utilised.
Over the years, there has been a significant investment by Monash, local and Federal governments and philanthropic organisations to build a suite of high-end technology research platforms. Due to this level of investment and commitment by external funding agencies to support Monash University we must ensure we’re getting the best use out of our infrastructure and equipment and that these facilities are easily accessible.
One way we are achieving this is by developing a platform strategy which revolves around setting up core facilities, each with their own dedicated manager, clear KPI’s and governance structures.
The 24 technology research platforms are available for researchers from both academia and industry. Putting a manager in charge of each platform allows additional operational support and ensures equipment is well maintained and used to its full potential.
The research facilities vary from supporting research in the drug discovery pipeline, advanced manufacturing, sustainability or medtech. For example: genomics, aerodynamic measurements in a wind tunnel, 3D printing, protein crystallisation or 3D visualization to name a few.
Partnering with internal and external players to attract more research dollars
At Monash the technology research platforms are underpinning key internal and external research collaborations where the design and construction of our facilities is critical to ensure the best performance of our technology. The Pfizer Centre for Therapeutic Innovations is a unique model for building academic and industry collaboration and has developed due to the researchers being able to be innovative and compete on the international stage.
By being part of this collaboration, we’re allowing researchers to answer that big question or develop their research to a point where companies can commercialise it and look into translating it into new medicines or innovative outcomes.
The role the research facility plays is to provide the equipment and technology needed to enable researchers to answer big questions, and eventually partner and collaborate with big organisations like Pfizer.
One of our main aims is to ensure we are giving our researchers the latest technology which meets their needs and it’s a big factor in how we develop our research facilities.
Another example of where we partner externally to build our facilities is through a big focus on technology. We have a number of examples where we have developed strategic partnerships with companies such as Siemens, Perkin Elmer, Tecan or FEI.
As part of these partnerships we don’t focus on getting the cheapest equipment but rather at building long term partnerships which will help us not only build capacity, but also provide a win for the company we’re partnering with.
Another important element of developing strategic partnerships is involving the researchers in the process. At Monash we encourage researchers to push the development of the technology, so we can go to a certain company and work with them to develop technology based on interesting research questions.
The great thing about strategic partnerships is the ability to work with external companies on research technology development, and often as a result our partners will help us always have the latest technology available to ensure our researchers stay at the cutting edge.
Monash has also recently joined the Victorian Platform Technology Network’s initiative, the Australian Research Infrastructure Network (ARIN) which is an online instrument and services booking software. Ensuring these platform facilities are easily accessible by academic researchers and industry customers is critical for the success and development of our research facilities. The benefit is being able to show key stakeholders that anyone can access our research platforms which will ensure our customers can ultimately achieve great research outcomes, impact and improved societal behaviours.
The differentiator for the ARIN is the ability to integrate all technology research platforms across institutions in Victoria. By implementing ARIN widely across Monash, a researcher from any research organisation or industry can access our equipment from one login. They also have the ability to access infrastructure from other Victorian research organisations like CSIRO, RMIT and Swinburne. This has enormous impact because it’s getting the whole industry involved in research, but also providing opportunities for collaboration with other universities and partners which helps deliver greater impact to the community.
Download the full article here to read more about how Monash is:
- Procuring the right tech and putting the researchers’ needs first
- Avoiding mistakes in planning and design to build functional and flexible facilities
- attracting world-class researchers
For more information about Research Facilities Design and Development 2015, visit www.researchfacilities.com.au or call +61 2 9229 1000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org