VRE'S is a answer to a question posed by researchers... How can we collaborate more on a project between ourselves and externalsmyExperiment is a joint project by the University of Southampton and the University of Manchester. I can see this being useful, sort of a ning/facebook for researchers.
They also provide a free open source version which you can install at your location institutaion and is developed on ROR.
JISC has recently provided some funding for these types of projects, so it is something to look forward to.
Though the question is do we need a seperate VRE when you could possibly convert part of an already existing Social Network to this purpose....Answers on a postcard.