New funding aims to bring academia and industry closer

A multi-million pound initiative to help universities and research institutions fill skills gaps has been announced announced by Research Councils UK (RCUK) with support from Science Minister Lord Drayson.

Funding of up to £5million is being made available to recruit highly qualified people into a number of senior level research and technology-transfer posts in universities and research institutions across the UK. The Skills Gap Awards will apply to a range of sectors from which it has traditionally been hard to recruit.

The initiative, to be administrated via the Medical Research Council 
(MRC), is aimed at talented individuals currently working in the private sector who are looking to switch to a career in the academic sector.

The Government is supporting the initiative as bolstering wider work to ensure the UK holds on to top scientific and research talent.

The MRC, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will take part in the initiative that will run for six months. The goal of this interim project is to ensure that appointments are made rapidly. Decisions will be taken within four weeks, and funds will be provided to establish facilities or initial project support, while appointees seek grant funding. Co-funding from industry partners will be welcomed.

The Economic and Social Research Council will also bring forward funding for around 30 studentships to retain economics trained graduates in the priority areas of macro-economics and quantitative methods. In addition, BBSRC will advance funding for an additional 20 four-year studentships in four key priority areas of ageing research, bioenergy, bioprocessing and environmental change.

More permanent efforts to encourage active, two-way movement of skilled people from universities and research institutions to the private sector and vice versa will be strengthened in 2009 through people-exchange programmes.

Welcoming the announcement, Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson, said: “Forging ever closer links between academia and industry will be key to future growth in innovative companies. Research Councils harbour some of the brightest and best scientific talent in this country and it is quite right they have moved to identify areas where they need reinforcements and have taken swift action.”

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