EPSRC puts �250m into Doctoral Research Centres

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council – the UK funding body for science and engineering – is investing £250m in a bold new approach to training PhD students.

The £250m initiative will see the creation of 44 EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training and generate over 2,000 PhD students. They will tackle some of the biggest problems currently facing Britain, such as climate change, energy, the ageing population, and high-tech crime, as well as focusing on emerging areas like advanced materials and ubiquitous computing.

EPSRC has already piloted this approach to training through a small number of thriving Engineering Doctorate Centres and Doctoral Training Centres (DTCs). The new investment builds on the success of these.

Students from different academic disciplines will be brought together for a formal programme of taught coursework in the centres to develop and enhance their technical interdisciplinary knowledge, and broaden their set of skills. Alongside this they will undertake a challenging and original research project at PhD level.

Experience with the pilots has shown that the centres create new working cultures, build relationships between teams in universities and forge lasting links with industry. Seventeen of the new centres are designated as Industrial Doctorate Centres, which will equip their students with the business skills they need to turn pioneering ideas into products and services.

Lord Drayson, Minister of State for Science and Innovation, made the announcement, saying: “Britain faces many challenges in the 21st century and needs scientists and engineers with the right skills to find answers to these challenges, build a strong economy and keep us globally competitive. EPSRC’s doctoral training centres will provide a new wave of engineers and scientists to do the job.”

He continued: "This is absolutely the right thing for these times. £250m over five years is a record investment in itself, but the way it has been put together is fantastic. It's about creating a network of communities around the key challenges we face, and ensuring the students develop their understanding in an industrial and business context.

"We hope spin-outs will be an effective by-product of the creation of these centres."

Professor Dave Delpy, chief executive of EPSRC, said: “We want to drive a modern economy and meet the challenges of tomorrow by investing in talented people and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.” 

He continued: “EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training expand our existing training portfolio, focus on priority themes for the UK, emerging and multidisciplinary research, and greater collaboration with business.”

Delpy added that EPSRC had received 270 applications for DTC funding. "That indicates the strength of the research base and the enthusiasm of universities for this approach."

The initiative is widely supported by business and industry. Professor Jeremy Watson, global director of research at Arup, called on employers to recognise the opportunities of the scheme. He said: "Businesses like Arup need a good supply of highly-qualified scientists with the right skills to further innovation. They need to understand how business works and also be able to turn their best ideas into a successful business proposition."


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