Universities Scotland has submitted its response to the UK Government’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills’ consultation on “Science and research: proposals for long-term capital investment”.
We believe that capital investment is a key element of competitiveness. It contributes to attracting the best staff from around the world, maintaining world-leading research and securing significant efficiencies.
It is also vital to recognise that capital investment must be married with appropriate revenue funding, to meet needs for technicians and maintenance and to ensure that equipment and facilities can be operated to full capacity. As digitisation becomes a key strategic call on capital funding it is important to factor in the cost of investment in research information systems and digital research repositories.
The consultation sets out options for the balance between large-scale, national projects on the one hand and institutional level investment (through various routes) on the other. This balance is important. We set out in our response that national facilities are important but that over-concentration on these carries risks for our national capacity and the diversity of research and training. The reversal of funding cuts, or major one-off increase in funding, while welcome, increase this risk, because they mitigate towards larger scale projects.
Capital investment is very important across the entire research spectrum including the arts, humanities and social sciences. For instance, we need to maintain the British Cohort studies and Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study Digitisation provides important opportunities for the arts and humanities, as shown by Glasgow School of Art’s Digital Design Studio, which specialises in 3D digital visualisation and interaction technologies, and has attracted funding from public and private bodies, including the Ford Motor Company, Historic Scotland and NHS Scotland. For these disciplines, these are capital needs; where they are already supported by capital funding, this should be maintained and increased.