How Jisc drives innovation: turning great ideas into reality
Helping the education and research sector leverage technology as a force for good.
To help drive digital transformation, the education and research sector needs to be able to take advantage of the latest, most innovative technologies.
But innovation doesn’t always equate to reliability or usability, and institutions don’t have the luxury of being able to try out every unproven new technology that comes along. ChatGPT is a perfect example. We’re also talking about things like infrastructure and cyber security, which involve high cost as well as high risk.
Jisc innovates so that individual institutions don’t have to
Jisc explores new, emerging and established technologies to assess how they might transform the education sector. We keep an eye on what’s going on in other sectors, looking for things that are successful in industry, which we can adapt to add value for the education sector.
At any point, we’re working closely with multiple members and customers on a range of proof of concept (PoC) projects with global technology vendors like Oracle, Microsoft, Honeywell and AWS. Our knowledge of the sector and the close relationships we have with our members mean that, together, we aim to develop reliable, trustworthy, proven products and services that meet the sector’s needs.
We do this so that individual institutions don’t have to. It’s a “buy not build” approach that saves the sector time, resources and cost.
Taking ideas and turning them into solutions for real sector challenges
We are constantly taking new ideas, choosing the ones that will have the greatest impact on UK education and research, and moving them forward to proofs of concept (PoCs). This is where we test their capabilities and do our best to enhance and break them, basically, so that we know they are fit-for-purpose before we turn them into products or services.
This process is open to all: we partner with HE and FE members, customers, other sector organisations and commercial companies that share our vision of leveraging technology as a force for good.
It’s not about technology per se
Many educational and research institutions operate complex IT estates, often with large teams and costly infrastructure tethered to legacy phone systems. When it comes to improving the student experience, rising expectations are rendering these systems unfit for purpose and making digital transformation even more imperative.
As the trend towards blended learning gathers pace, institutions need to include things like virtual reality, immersive classrooms and edge computing into their digital transformation strategies – all of which require the right technology to enable them to work to their full potential.
Although we love technology and what it can do, what Jisc does is never about technology for technology’s sake; it's about finding the challenges that we can help with and applying technology to solve those problems.
Take digital poverty, for example
Our vision is to extend connectivity so that those learners who don’t have an internet connection at home, whose broadband connection is poor or who can’t afford the data costs incurred have equal access to online learning.
We are working with Cradlepoint, part of Ericsson, to develop a series of portable devices that can be placed in buildings or vehicles to deliver wifi access via Jisc’s eduroam service using cellular 4G/5G connectivity for up to 100 users in off-campus locations.
These devices will enable learners to continue to access educational resources on the bus, in public libraries, hospitals and sports facilities, and even in shared off-campus student accommodation.
Sustainability is always top-of-mind
To support climate emergency goals and meet net zero targets, as well as reducing costs and raising student satisfaction, institutions need to improve energy and resource efficiencies.
Along with smart buildings experts Honeywell, we are working with five of our members to run proofs of concept to really understand what their campus buildings are doing and how the learning and teaching environment can be optimised for users. As part of the proof of concept, we also set up Honeywell Forge in our Bristol office as a test bed before considering this as a service to members.
Helping the sector prepare for upcoming challenges
Our members told us they were worried about what will happen when BT retires its analogue phone network in 2025. To help them start the move to cloud-ready digital services, we worked with Oracle and Microsoft Teams to create, trial and deliver an easy route towards transforming campus telephony.
As a result, session border controller infrastructure built into the core of our super-fast Janet Network now gives our members high quality digital voice communications over a stable, well-established connection.
Pioneering a shared hybrid cloud infrastructure
Our latest proof of concept promises a major step forward for learning and teaching delivery.
We are working with companies like AWS and Fortinet to create and test a secure, high-performance hybrid cloud environment which the UK education and research sector can share. Based on AWS Outposts, this would effectively enable institutions to access additional compute power via the Janet Network instead of building their own edge computing infrastructures or using the public cloud – a first for the sector.
This is ideal for research organisations with large datasets that need to be quickly analysed or where data is location-sensitive. It moves the compute load closer to the customer, bringing cost and efficiency benefits.
It also opens new opportunities to explore innovative cloud services like software-defined networking, data storage and security – whatever, in fact, our customers tell us they need but can’t build themselves.
Find out more and get involved
Attend Networkshop 2023 for leading-edge insights to help your institution thrive in the evolving digital infrastructure landscape.
To find out more about Jisc’s innovation work, contact:
- Simon Farr, director of innovation and IT (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To get involved in a Jisc proof of concept project, contact: