Benefits for institutions
There are substantial benefits to be gained from the use of remote laboratories, particularly where the labs are shared across multiple institutions.
It is estimated that the current annual expenditure on university engineering and science laboratories lies in excess of $400 million nationwide. However, these labs are often not used to their full potential. In fact, many university surveys report that average laboratory utilisation levels are below 10%. This creates quite a drain on the resources of individual institutions and realistically no university can afford to fund or maintain all optimum resources independently. This is particularly significant for those that have extremely limited facilities due to size and geographical remoteness. Remotely accessible laboratory apparatus provides an elegant solution that removes geographic location as an issue, and hence directly supports those institutions that are most disadvantaged.
Remote laboratories provide a high impact, extremely cost-efficient and educationally effective solution. From a pedagogic perspective, sharing of labs has the potential to lead to dissemination of educational and lab design expertise. Rather than incur costs from building additional general labs, institutions can focus on developing labs where they have specialised experience and key staff. Alleviating the financial stress on educational institutions by supporting the sharing of laboratory resources directly leads to the expansion and richness of the laboratory scope and experience.
In addition, by offering labs to be shared remotely, there is opportunity to create a funding stream for the owners of the infrastructure based on provision of underutilised excess capacity. There is also possibility for learning and research to be conducted across a broad range of disciplines through distributed sharing and access to scarce or specialised resources.