There's a wealth of useful equipment on eBay and other places, big expensive equipment is not out of the reach of the dedicated researcher. Ben Krasnow has three (I think) electron microscopes. I personally own a UV/VIS spectrophotometer. a microgram scale, and a Weston cell.
The idea that "research can only be done at the behest of government" or "is only associated with university" is a modern fiction. Government would *like* you to believe that everything depends on their whim and largesse, but it's not the only, nor even the best way.
Build a lab and start tinkering, or join a hackerspace. Lots of people do it. Lots of good science is done this way.
Electron microscopes are pricey. UV/VIS specs, mmg balances, and weston cells, not so much. High field NMR spectrometers and x-ray crystallography setups? You're dreaming. Thanks for playing!