Managing CFI-funded infrastructure through core facilities

October 28, 2016

Over the past few years, as research efforts move increasingly towards multidisciplinary teams and approaches, a rapidly growing number of institutions have implemented institutional core facilities and developed formal designation and supporting policies. By fostering a shared and common management of similar or complementary research facilities, whether located together or distributed, core facilities offer the potential to increase effectiveness and efficiency, with the realization of significant benefits such as:

  • Increased utilization of the infrastructure and broader access to state-of-the-art services, facilities and technologies offered by co-locating research infrastructure, or by centralizing its management and operation;
  • The strategic development of proposals, with a focus on opportunities and areas of greater need while avoiding duplication of infrastructure;
  • A better utilization of resources through economies of scale and cost savings, reduced duplication of efforts, and the consolidation of in-house maintenance capabilities;
  • Enhanced training and greater availability of skilled operators to help ensure an optimal use of the infrastructure;
  • The promotion of interdisciplinary collaborations;
  • Enhanced attraction and capacity to work with external users, including ability to charge user fees;
  • An improved capacity to sustain the research infrastructure over its useful lifetime.

It should be noted that including a piece of infrastructure in a core facility may not be appropriate in all instances. Careful consideration of the advantages, challenges, particularities of a given project and the institution’s portfolio of projects should be made before making this determination. When proposing to house CFI-funded equipment in a core facility, the institution must consider how the equipment will be accessed to ensure the research goals of the project can be met within the core facility arrangement.

Here's how some institutions have implemented these practices.

University of Ottawa

The University of Ottawa launched a Core Facilities program in 2010. These facilities provide services, analyses, instrument and technology access or expertise needed and used by many investigators, but which are generally too expensive, complex or specialized for investigators to cost-effectively manage on their own. This program has allowed the university to:

  • Maximize the use of the infrastructure;
  • Reduce maintenance costs;
  • Maximize the use of Infrastructure Operating Funds (IOF);
  • Serve a broader clientele (internal and external users);
  • Generate alternative sources of revenues for operation and maintenance (user fees);
  • Create centres that can be leveraged for various strategic research directions.

As of June 2016, there were 24 core facilities broadly available to all university researchers. Read the University of Ottawa’s Core Facilities Guidelines for more information.

Contacts:

Christian Beaulé
Director, Office of Strategic Development Initiatives
Research Services
Phone: 613.562.5800  ext. 3405
Email: cbeaule [at] uottawa.ca

France Boucher
Director, Research, Trust and Endowment
Financial Resources 
Phone: 613.562.5800  ext. 1509
Email: france.boucher [at] uottawa.ca

Dalhousie University

Through its strategic CORES program (Centralized Operation of Research Equipment and Support), the Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine has developed a range of core, multi-user research facilities that provide researchers with access to up-to-date equipment and facilities that are maintained and operated by trained experts. The centralized facilities are located in the Life Sciences Research Institute on the Dalhousie campus.

The Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine provides ongoing operating support for its core facilities, as well as strategic guidance on development of future core facilities. As of June 2016, the Faculty of Medicine had seven core facilities. Additional facilities are expected to be developed over time.

Contact:

Carla Ross
Director of Research Development
Medical Research Development Office, Faculty of Medicine
Phone: 902.494.1887  
Email: carla.ross [at] dal.ca

Related topics

Giving consideration to your portfolio of CFI-funded projects
Ensuring appropriate operation and maintenance of CFI-funded infrastructure