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£250m to create new wave of scientists and engineers for Britain

The biggest ever investment in training the scientists and engineers Britain needs for its future was announced today (5th December 2008) by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council – the UK funding body for science and engineering.

Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, announced the £250million initiative which will create 44 training centres across the UK and generate over 2000 PhD students. They will tackle some of the biggest problems currently facing Britain such as climate change, energy, our ageing population, and high-tech crime.

Lord Drayson said: “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: “These new centres will help to develop clean renewable energy, fight high-tech crime, assist in reducing carbon emissions, and discover new healthcare solutions for an ageing population. This is an exciting, innovative approach to training young researchers and will help build a better future for Britain.

EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training are a bold new approach to training PhD students, creating communities of researchers working on current and future challenges. 17 of the new centres will be industrial training centres that will equip their students with the business skills they need to turn pioneering ideas into products and services, boosting their impact on the UK’s economy.

Professor Dave Delpy, chief executive of EPSRC, said: “People are the heart of our future strategy. 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.”

The initiative is widely supported by business and industry. Professor Jeremy Watson, global director of research at Arup, said: "Businesses like Arup need a good supply of highly-qualified scientists with the right skills to further innovation in the design of sustainable towns, cities and the wider environment. They need to understand how business works and also be able to turn their best ideas into a successful business proposition."

Arup is a partner on one of the new EPSRC centres which aims to create zero-carbon buildings. It will be based at the University of Reading and will reduce carbon emissions in construction, integrate zero-carbon energy sources, such as solar cells and combined heat and power systems, with demand reduction tools including smart meters and consumption feedback devices.

This approach to training has been extensively piloted by EPSRC through a small number of thriving Engineering Doctorate Centres and Doctoral Training Centres in Complexity Science, Systems Biology and at the Life Sciences Interface. This new investment builds on the success of these and will establish a strong group of centres which will rapidly establish a pre-eminent international reputation for doctoral training.

The multidisciplinary centres bring together diverse areas of expertise to train engineers and scientists with the skills, knowledge and confidence to tackle today’s evolving issues. They also create new working cultures, build relationships between teams in universities and forge lasting links with industry.

Students in these centres will receive a formal programme of taught coursework 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.

Highlights of the new EPSRC centres being created include (see notes for full list):

•Tackling hi-tech crime and global security
Centre: Security Science (University College London)
•Steel city to strengthen high value UK manufacturing
Centre: Advanced Metallic Systems (Sheffield University)
•Building a low carbon future
Centre: Technologies for Sustainable Built Environments (University of Reading)
•Water pressure: managing a precious resource
Centre: Skills, Technology, Research and Management (Cranfield University)
•Improving healthcare through innovation
Centre: Biomedical Engineering at the Translational Interface of Next Generation Healthcare (University of Oxford)
•Advancing carbon capture and clean coal technologies
Centre: Efficient Power from Fossil Energy and Carbon Capture Technologies (University of Nottingham)
•Delivering the skills for a green power revolution
Centre: Wind Energy Systems (University of Strathclyde)

Lawrie Jones | alfa
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