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Knowledge is a resource that is gathered by Science Labs for a finite amount of 3000 per planet. Knowledge is used to unlock new ships and structures, or higher marks of known units. There is no maximum limit for stocking Knowledge, however the total amount of Knowledge available in a galaxy is finite.
Knowledge can be gathered by science labs on player-controlled or neutral planets, but not from AI-controlled planets.
The Hacker is capable of Covert Knowledge Extraction on hostile planets, but this costs hacking points, which are also a limited resource.
The rate at which the knowledge is gathered depends on the level and quantity of Science Labs on a planet. Mark I Science Labs generate 2 knowledge per second, Mark II Labs generate 3, and Advanced Research Stations generate 6. Regardless of the rate of knowledge gathering, the maximum per system is always 3000. Multiple Science Labs can gather Knowledge on the same planet at the same time; the MkII Lab isn't better because of its gathering rate but by its cloaking ability which allows it to survive on neutral or contested planet with high odds of AI invasion.
In multiplayer games, each player has his own knowledge pile, and generates knowledge independently. Each player can gather 3000 Knowledge per planet, and gathering doesn't steal anything to anyone. Players should remember to build or send science labs on planets captured by allied players.
Capturing an Advanced Research Station immediately captures 500 bonus knowledge for all players. This is not counted toward the 3000 knowledge maximum for the captured planet.
The Spire Archive is another exception to the 3000-knowledge-per-planet rule. Upon capture, it will start gathering knowledge until one player reaches 9000 for the planet. Once the first player reaches 9000, it will self-destruct. Is it therefore not advisable to move additional knowledge gatherers to the planet with the Spire Archive, since reaching 9000 before your allies will rob them of the heightened cap.
Knowledge is spent in the technology panel, which is displayed on Science Labs and Advanced Research Stations (hotkey "S" by default). This is analogous to the building panel displayed on space docks (hotkey "B"). In this panel, the player can unlock new units and structures with knowledge. Hovering over the unit displays the required amount of knowledge.
Grayed out buttons are unavailable because a prerequisite is missing – usually lower Marks of the same unit type. Grayed out buttons with a check mark are already unlocked.
There are five tabs in the technology panel: I-III for more powerful Marks of fleet ships; STAR for starships; ECON for economic structures such as Engineers, Metal Harvesters, and more advanced Command Stations; SUP for support units, including defensive structures like Mines, Fortresses and Force Fields; and TUR for turrets.