Animal-research laboratories in the UK are being encouraged to develop networks for sharing resources, data and equipment under a £1 million scheme announced by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs).

Funding for the Infrastructure for Impact scheme, which aims to reduce and refine animal experiments in the short- to medium term by funding improvements to the infrastructure underpinning UK biosciences research, is provided by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as part of the £600 million extra science funding allocation from the government’s 2012 Autumn Budget Statement.

Applications for project funding of up to £500,000 are now being sought for non-research proposals that could have a significant impact on replacing, reducing and refining the use of animals in research over the next three to five years.

These would include resource-sharing (e.g., of laboratory animals, cell and tissue banks), data-sharing (results from animal experiments) and equipment use across multiple sites and institutes. The scheme is not intended to provide capital funds for improving buildings or other facilities.

Cross-departmental or cross-institutional applications are particularly welcome, the NC3Rs noted. The deadline for submitting proposals is 5 June 2013.

Significant impact

“Existing NC3Rs funding schemes primarily support hypothesis-driven research and technology development,” pointed out the Centre’s chief executive, Dr Vicky Robinson.

“We have identified a need to fund proposals which are not driven by a specific research question, but could nevertheless have a significant impact on reducing and refining animal research.”

Sharing of data from animal experiments, for example, will help to avoid studies being repeated, Robinson explained, while networking on cells and tissues will maximise the use of animals killed for this purpose.

The scheme will also support sharing of laboratory animals “where appropriate”, and in particular of genetically altered mice to mitigate the potential for overbreeding.