£1.125 million invested in new National Technician Development Centre for Higher Education.

Based in Sheffield, the National Centre will tackle the shortage of specialist technical skills in the Higher Education sector. The National Technician Development Centre for Higher Education will provide HE Institutions with access to information, expertise and tools that will enable them to create a sustainable future for their technical staff and services.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has awarded funding of £546,000 from its Catalyst Fund to the National Centre, which along with funding from the University of Sheffield and other partners of over £580k, represents a total investment of £1.125 million in the new National Centre.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, President of the Science Council and the President and Vice- Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, who has been a long-term advocate for technical education through his work with HEaTED and recently the Science Council, said: “Professional Technicians play a vital role in research and education, not only in industry but in the world-leading universities which drive innovation in fields ranging from science and medicine to engineering. Finding a way to nurture and develop this crucial capacity and to support individual professional development matters for individual technicians and the wider community of universities. “I am delighted that this need has been officially recognised by funding being made available to create this National Technician Development Centre, which will be the one stop shop for all universities. The work of the National Centre will make a massive contribution to our understanding of the roles and contribution the Professional Technicians make in the Higher Education sector.”

The work of highly skilled professional technicians can often be overlooked by the Higher Education sector and the challenges of recruitment are widely known. Research by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation suggests that the UK needs 700,000 more technicians by 2020. The expertise of the team at the new National Centre is available to universities across the UK and covers a number of strategic issues around restructuring technical services, business continuity, succession planning, recruitment and other related areas.The work of the National Centre includes the HEI Technical Resources Toolkit, a resource available to aid universities in understanding their technical staff and improving the sustainability of their technical services. The Toolkit and work of the National Centre also enables universities to address and meet the pledges they made to the Science Council’s Technician Commitment, to which nearly half of UK Universities are signatories.

The National Technician Development Centre will continue to work with both partners in HE and related institutions to provide a national framework for standardised job titles, grading and career pathways across the technical workforce. The Centre also examines and signposts to best practice in areas of technical training and development. Yvonne Hawkins, HEFCE’s Director for Universities and Colleges said, ‘We are extremely pleased to support these important developments for higher education and its technical workforce, which builds upon previous investment by HEFCE, the University of Sheffield and partners. Our aim through the funding provided is for the Centre to work on behalf of and for the HE sector, to continue to develop the technical workforce, deliver new ways of working in order to meet future skills needs, and provide a sustainable way forward.’Speaking about the new Centre, Terry Croft, Chairman of the Institute of Science and Technology (IST) and Director of the National Technician Development Centre said: “Official recognition for the new National Centre will galvanise the Higher Education sector to publicise the career opportunities available for technicians in the UK. This will help universities attract and retain the best talent and develop a workforce that is fit for the research challenges ahead.” We look forward to working with all HEIs across the sector to deliver a sustainable future for technical staff and services, which will sustain our internationally recognised teaching and research capabilities well into the 21st century.


For further information, please contact the National Centre on: 0114 222 9773 or enquiries@nationaltechnicianscentre.ac.uk, 8 Palmerston Road, Sheffield, S10 2TE. Or visit our website at sheffield.ac.uk/tdm. HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund provides targeted investment in activity led by universities and colleges. The fund supports a range of student and sector priorities, including innovation in higher education, efficiency and effectiveness, and student interest issues.

Read a recently published report by Deloitte, on the economic impact of HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund, which found significant benefits for students, the economy and society.

Terry Croft MBE FIScT CSci is the Director of the National Technician Development Centre for Higher Education

He is also the Chair and CEO of the Institute of Science and Technology. www.istonline.org.uk, Director: HEFCE Catalyst Project “Development and Embedding of Career Pathways for Technicians across the Higher Education Sector” www.sheffield.ac.uk/tdm and a Science Council Top 100 Leading Practising Scientist 2014 http://istonline.org.uk/istchairman-in-top-100-uk-scientists/




Technical Excellence at Manchester – TEaM Local representatives

During the initial meetings to discuss the establishment of an all-inclusive networking group for the Technical staff of The University of Manchester, it very soon became clear that there would be a requirement, beyond the main Steering Group, for more numerous and embedded local representation. As Team now enters its second year, the activities undertaken and the issues encountered since the launch event in December 2016 have only confirmed the need for ‘more hands on deck’. We envisage that these local reps would play a vital role in facilitating improved two-way communications, as well as providing practical support at TEaM events.

It is suggested that the role would include (but not be restricted to) the following elements:

  • Promotion and Marketing of TEaM events and initiatives to fellow members of the Technical Staff (verbal, posters, flyers etc.)
  • Monitoring and encouraging uptake for events, initiatives and surveys;
  • Active collection of or point of contact for, feedback, concerns or suggestions for the attention of the Steering/Executive group. Attendance of group meetings, by request or invitation, as necessary;
  • Organisational help with TEaM events (bookings, risk assessments, catering etc.)
  • Practical, hands-on help before, during or after TEaM events.

If you feel that you have the time and that your circumstances would allow you to become involved in helping support the TEaM network, then please approach any member of the Steering Group at an event, or email technical.excellence@manchester.ac.uk for further details.


Art meets Science Masterclass

Art meets Science Masterclass took place between 2nd-6th October 2017, based around looking at art through a scientific lens with researchers from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research. The event was held at the Whitworthand covered how we are built and investigated themes such as properties of materials, structure and how cells behave. Local primary school pupils interacted with North and South exhibition Raqs Media Collective with scientists and artists to bring to life a world within us.

The day began with an introduction to who we are, what we do and how we study what makes us human. Pupils then went on a tour of the Whitworth with staff from the gallery team and a researcher from the Centre, to discuss what they do whilst encouraging the pupils to collect/sketch patterns and ideas for their designs later in the day. In the afternoon pupils worked in the studio space to create their own designs inspired by science.



TEaM 2018!

Last year was a busy year for TEaM and its members. As well as the social events, workplace tours and various workshops hosted by TEaM, there were also many other notable achievements, including our members winning top awards!

Earlier this year Nicola Begley won the PSS Distinguished Achievement Award for 2017, with Anthony Steel and Neil O’Hara as runners-up. Laura Farrell, a technician in Manchester’s Stoller Biomarker Discovery Centre, won an award for her continuing professional development from the Science Council. Jennifer Haworth was made first named author on a paper, resulting in her being nominated for the national Papin Award by her academic for her work, for which she won. Most recently, Clare McManus won the Proteintech Group Best Lab Manager Award 2017 as the only UK nomination to make it into the top 5 selected for voting. Congratulations to all these worthy winners!

Back in May the Science Council launched an initiative entitled the ‘Technician Commitment’ and Manchester was approached to pledge their commitment from the outset. In September, Manchester became one of the founding members.

In April/May, the University received an ‘Apprenticeship 4 England Bronze Award’ for our Technical Apprenticeship Programme.

In July, the Executive Group engaged with the Gatsby Foundation’s ‘Technicians Make It Happen’ initiative and started to explore the potential benefits associated with the initiative and how it may complement the ‘Technicians Commitment’.

In the Autumn, Nancy Rothwell, the University President & Vice-Chancellor, issued a supporting statement for TEaM which demonstrated that TEaM is wholly recognised by senior University management. It acknowledges the contribution we make, as technical staff, to research and teaching, and recognises our contribution to meeting the growing needs of the University in looking forward.

I am certain there are many other worthy achievements to be celebrated. We are always looking for contributions to bring together technical staff from all areas of the University, to share our achievements and celebrate our vital contribution to teaching and research within our University and beyond.

Rae Watkins (Chair)


National Graphene Institute Workplace Tour

The National Graphene Institute (NGI) is located on Booth Street East, part of the University’s Main Campus. Completed in 2015, the NGI is a formidable building designed to focus on collaboration between The University of Manchester and its partners to promote and perform multi-disciplinary research into practical applications for Graphene and other 2D materials.

Groups of technicians were guided on our tour of the five storey facility by John Whittaker, Head of Operations for the NGI.
Firstly, we were shown the impressive cleanroom facilities features – located over two floors, the NGI homes 1,500m2 of clean room space – all class 100 or class 1000 cleanrooms. It is the largest academic space of its kind in the world dedicated to graphene research.

On the tour, we got to see technicians at work in full cleanroom regalia, as well as many state of the art instruments.

After the cleanroom floors, we visited a research & production floor which housed various labs; through one of these was a “quiet room” designed to be free from all vibration, used to analyse graphene interactions. Finally, we visited a printing lab on another floor. John told us that the research being done at the NGI is into practical applications such as longer-life batteries, thin-layer display screens and faster processors, as well as many other applications for the future.