Virtual Labs investment has huge economic and research impact

Nectar Virtual Laboratories (VLs), which provide digital interfaces, tools and data to online research communities, are generating a return on investment of up to 138 times their cost, according to a new report by Victoria University academics.

Estimating the value and impact of Nectar Virtual Laboratories, written by the Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies for the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources project (Nectar), studied three Nectar-supported VLs across different disciplines.

Five methods of value measurement were used, including the impact the VLs have on research and how much users would be willing to pay for the service if it did not already exist.

The return on investment varies depending on the metric and the associated method of calculation, however the report has found that return on investment (ROI) is at least double the investment for every measure of each of the VLs studied, indicating the services have a significant economic and user impact. By one measure the value of the VL was over 100 times the cost of investment.

The three VLs covered by the study are:

The five value measures used

  1. Efficiency impacts: the efficiency gains to VL users such as the value of time savings (productivity) and the avoidance of costs

  2. Willingness to pay: what users would be willing to pay for the VL if it did not already exist

  3. Willingness to accept: what users would be willing to accept in order to forgo the VL

  4. Additional research impact: the value to economic growth due to the VLs

  5. Returns to additional research: the value of the additional research made possible due to the VLs

By the Willingness to accept method of calculating value, the three VLs recorded annual benefit to cost ratios ranging from 4.6:1 to 35.6:1.

Similarly, the Additional research impact method demonstrated an annual benefit to cost ratio ranging from 2.4:1 to 21.8:1.

The calculations are based on an estimated investment of $4.4 to $7 million from the launch of the VLs up to 2020.

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