M5 is a group of Midlands research-intensive universities, initially Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick, and more recently joined by Aston, that is exploring how to boost research collaboration and improve sharing of equipment.

About the M5

The M5 group are developing the tools needed to make such sharing work effective in the future and hope this will lead to increased efficiencies in terms of use of expensive equipment. The group also hopes that the collaboration will help in funding bids for high-end equipment that are increasingly focused on a small number of places. RCUK and each of the individual research councils have been keen to see universities beginning to explore if there are any efficiencies to be gained in sharing research equipment.

Each M5 university now has an effective register detailing each piece of equipment that could be shared. There is also agreement on a measure of charging for use for such equipment that is consistent and equitable across each institution. The next step is to find an easy way of sharing each other’s registers and booking time on that equipment from another institution. The six universities are confident that they can achieve this and are actively exploring tools that could make that work.

The M5 group are exploring if they can take such equipment sharing further into jointly procuring maintenance / servicing contacts where the registers show clusters of similar equipment across the institutions that could be brought under single service contracts.