A £350 million investment in training for engineering and physical sciences has been announced by the Science Minister.
Speaking at the think tank Policy Exchange yesterday, Minister for Universities and Science Mr Willetts announced £350 million worth of investment available to universities through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s(EPSRC) Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) scheme.
Universities will be able to apply for funding for new Centres from February 6 on the EPSRC website.
EPSRC’s chief executive Professor David Delpy said: “Developing the talented leaders of tomorrow is a key goal for EPSRC and we recognise the need to support researchers at all stages of their careers, providing the right environment in which to grow.
“Future economic growth will depend on our ability to develop the right people with the right skills in key sectors. The Centre for Doctoral Training model has already proved highly effective in training cohorts of world class students and drawing in expertise from industry and business.
“This new call will focus on over 60 priority areas identified after engagement with the scientific community.”
According to the EPSRC website CTDs “bring together diverse areas of expertise” to train engineers and scientists to “tackle today's evolving issues and future challenges”, in conjunction with industry.
Students are funded for four years and are given technical and transferrable skills training as well as a research element.
Mr Willetts said: “Maintaining a healthy supply of skilled scientists, researchers and engineers is vital to our economy and society.
“That’s why I’m pleased to announce that EPSRC will be inviting universities to apply for a share of the £350 million available to support doctoral training in priority areas.
“This investment will ensure we have the knowledge and expertise to tackle the major challenges we face in the 21st century, from improving healthcare to developing greener energy.”
Mr Willetts also took the opportunity to reveal how £600 million of funding for "eight great technologies", announced in the Government's Autumn Statement, was being spent.
The eight technologies are big data, satellites, robots, modern genetics, regenerative medicine, agricultural technologies, advanced materials and energy storage.
The largest sum, amounting to £189 million, will go to energy efficient computing and improving the processing of big data sets.
Further sums of £25 million will go to the development of new space technology, £35 million to centres specialising in robotics and autonomous systems, £45 million to new facilities for advanced materials research, and £30 million to support energy storage programmes.
In addition, £50 million will be spent on vital upgrades to research equipment and laboratories, and £65 million on world-leading research institutes.
A sum of £25 million is earmarked for the Advanced Metrology Laboratory at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, Middlesex, to boost leading edge measurement science.
Previously, £108 million had already been allocated to regenerative medicine, and £28 million to the National Composites Centre in Bristol.
Mr Willetts said: "Strong science and flexible markets is a good combination of policies, but it is not enough. It misses out crucial stuff in the middle - real decisions on backing key technologies on their journey from the lab to the marketplace. It is the missing third pillar to any successful high tech strategy.
"It is R&D and technology and engineering as distinct from pure science. It is our historic failure to back this which lies behind the familiar problems of the so-called 'valley of death' between scientific discoveries and commercial applications."