Research must determine the need for research infrastructure

14 October 2021

It is important that the university invests in high-quality research infrastructure based on the needs of researchers and through good collaborations nationally – both for the university and for Sweden as a knowledge nation.

The Swedish Research Council's Council for Research Infrastructures (RFI) recently decided on grants for research infrastructures of national interest.

Katrine Riklund, Pro-Vice-Chancellor

Photo: Mattias Pettersson

Having access to research infrastructures is for many disciplines often a necessity for conducting top-quality innovative research. Research infrastructures can, for instance, be tools and equipment, databases or biobanks with accompanying staff resources and expertise. Certain research infrastructures are so complex or require such extensive resources that universities unite to build them on a national scale, and some of them are funded using RFI grants.

RFI grants provide researchers with access to several prioritised research infrastructures. National infrastructures also further collaboration, which is positive for a university's attraction, both when it comes to retaining and recruiting competent staff from within and outside of the Swedish borders.

How research infrastructures are funded is a highly topical issue within higher education. The funding model is like mosaic with funding from RFI, higher education institutions themselves and other funding bodies. In the current funding model, RFI and higher education institutions share the costs equally when investing in national research infrastructures, which means a huge deal of strategic planning at each institution.

A great deal of the national coordination takes place in the universities' reference group for research infrastructure, called URFI. Currently, an inventory of upcoming needs for research infrastructure is underway for RFIs next call. This year's 45 listed needs are now subject to the faculties', and later on URFIs, work to prioritise before RFI continues with assessment of submitted needs.

Umeå University has established a procedure for planning, prioritising and funding in dialogue between the University Management, faculties and researchers. Our starting point is to promote researchers' most dire needs of prioritising in a transparent process.

RFI choosing to support all the infrastructures our researchers are active in, as main or co-applicants, I find is proof of our researchers conducting prioritised research of top quality in national collaborations.

Umeå University's working method with a Council for Infrastructure (RIS) tied to the Strategic Council for Research and Doctoral Education (FOSTRA) gives us a good foundation in this work and means that we, both internally and in sync with other universities, can contribute greatly to Swedish research. Strong collaborations nationally will help us achieve the goal that Sweden is to become one of the world's foremost research and innovation countries and a prominent knowledge nation. And Umeå University plays an important part in this.

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