We were recently successful in obtaining funding from the BBSRC as part of an Industrial Partnership Award with Bruker UK which allowed us to purchase a Dimension FastScan atomic force microscope. This is a newly introduced instrument offering capabilities (conventional and fast-scanning), that are unique among commercially available microscopes. The instrument has a custom-made adaptation that allows flash-photolysis to be conducted on samples while imaging.
In line with capital expenditure guidelines, BBSRC requires that large pieces of equipment funded by the Council should enhance national capability in meeting a strategically important need by the BBSRC research community.
We are always happy to engage in professional collaborations with other workers both within and outside the UK, sharing costs for consumables and so on. This has been a key principle we have adopted over the last 17 years because many groups have occasional need to gain access to atomic force microscopy and no local facilities or expertise are available to them. It is also possible to use our facilities with more formal charging arrangements.
Our experience shows that the most efficient way to manage collaborations is to first discuss the proposed experiments with the proposers, to assess feasibility, practicality and so on. We then invite either the PI, or an appropriate Postdoc or Graduate student to visit the laboratory with their specimens and prepare them for imaging in our lab. These samples are then imaged by a member of our group, with the visitor in attendance, as a first stage in training. Depending on circumstances it may be possible for visitors to conduct experiments on their own (with light, but present supervision).