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Technician UK-ITSS

Technical skills boosted for research excellence

Published on: 8 March 2023

Newcastle University is part of a £5.5 million national institute ensuring the UK has the technical capability and capacity across academia, research, education, and innovation to be a global leader.

The University, together with the N8 Research Partnership, are partners in the network of organisations and institutions across UK higher education and research, which will form the UK Institute of Technical Skills and Strategy (ITSS).

Funded by Research England, which is part of UK Research and Innovation, UK-ITSS will enable the country to be a global superpower in science, engineering, and the creative industries.

Technical professionals are involved at almost every level in teaching, research, and innovation in our universities as such they build, maintain, and enable the UK’s research and development infrastructure.

As part of this, Newcastle University’s Mel Leitch, Deputy Head of Infrastructure in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, will be seconded part-time to the UK-ITSS to join the Technician Commitment team as Associate Lead.

He said: “Newcastle University has been hugely supportive of its technical colleagues through hosting national conferences and regional networks and was a founder signatory of the Technician Commitment. 

“I am excited to be part of the next phase to recognise those with technical skills, working at sector level and being part of implementing some of the recommendations from the MI TALENT policy commission report, allowing the expansion and continued impact of the Technician Commitment.” 

The future of technical skills

The new institute will focus on technical skills, roles, careers, 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.

Professor Andy Filby, Professor of Practice, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, is part of the Technology Specialist Network within the UK-ITSS, bringing together technical specialists nationally and ensuring a strong technical voice and influence.

He said: “The UK-ITSS is the most exciting development to date for the UK technical community

“Over the last few years there has been an absolute and measurable positive change in how technicians are viewed by their host institutions and funding bodies.  The UK-ITSS will very much take this to the next level and create a legacy. 

“I am personally looking forward to playing an important role in the Institute via the Technical Specialist Network and other activities.”

The input internally in the University from Organisational Development and through Linda Robinson, Organisational Development Lead – Professional Services at Newcastle University, has driven many of the initiatives for technicians. Linda will continue to have influence internally and also externally as she is a member of the MI TALENT advisory board which is affiliated with the UK-ITSS.

She said: “I am delighted to hear the Technician Commitment will be hosted by the UK-ITSS and that Mel Leitch is to be seconded to join the Technician Commitment team. 

This is a new and exciting development, which I am pleased Newcastle University, together with the N8 Research Partnership, are to be partners.”

blood samples in a lab

"strengthening the voice of the technical community"

Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and UKRI Executive Champion for People, Culture and Talent said: “The Institute of Technical Skills and Strategy will build on the great work of our technical community and Technician Commitment leads across the UK by providing advocacy and strategic leadership for the diverse technical community.

“Technicians, technologists, specialists and related roles across the Research & Innovation sector are vital to our strategy to create a diverse and inclusive system, supporting and enabling individuals, and the UK, to reach their full potential.

“We look forward to working with ITSS and strengthening the voice of the technical community.”

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.”


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