Major investment in doctoral training announced (2024)

The 65 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) will support leading research in areas of national importance, including net zero, AI, defence and security, healthcare and quantum technologies. The £1 billion in funding – from government, universities and industry – represents the UK’s biggest-ever investment in engineering and physical sciences doctoral skills.

The University of Cambridge will lead two of the CDTs and is a partner in a further five CDTs. The funding will support roughly 150 Cambridge PhD students over the next five years.

The CDT in Future Infrastructure and Built Environment: Unlocking Net Zero (FIBE3 CDT), led by Professor Abir Al-Tabbaa from the Department of Engineering, will focus on meeting the needs of the infrastructure and construction sector in its pursuit of net zero by 2050 and is a collaboration between Cambridge, 30+ industry partners and eight international academic partners.

“The infrastructure sector is responsible for significant CO2 emissions, energy use and consumption of natural resources, and it’s key to unlocking net zero,” said Al-Tabbaa. “This CDT will develop the next generation of highly talented doctoral graduates who will be equipped to lead the design and implementation of the net zero infrastructure agenda in the UK.”

The FIBE3 CDT will provide more than 70 fully funded studentships over the next five years. The £8.1M funding from EPSRC is supported by £1.3M funding from the University and over £2.5M from industry as well as over £8.9M of in-kind contributions. Recruitment is underway for the first FIBE3 CDT cohort, to start in October.

The CDT in Sensor Technologies and Applications in an Uncertain World, led by Professor Clemens Kaminski from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, will cover the entire sensor research chain – from development to end of life – and will emphasise systems thinking, responsible research and innovation, co-creation, and cohort learning.

“Our CDT will provide students with comprehensive expertise and skills in sensor technology,” said Kaminski. “This programme will develop experts who are capable of driving impactful sensor solutions for industry and society, and can deal with uncertain data and the consequences of a rapidly changing world.”

The University is also a partner in:

  • EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in 2D Materials of Tomorrow (2DMoT), led by: Professor Irina Grigorieva from the University of Manchester
  • EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training Developing National Capability for Materials 4.0 and Henry Royce Institute, led by Professor William Parnell from the University of Manchester
  • EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Superconductivity: Enabling Transformative Technologies, led by Professor Antony Carrington from the University of Bristol
  • EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Aerosol Science: Harnessing Aerosol Science for Improved Security, Resilience and Global Health, led by Professor Jonathan Reid from the University of Bristol
  • EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Photonic and Electronic Systems, led by Professor Alwyn Seeds from University College London

“As innovators across the world break new ground faster than ever, it is vital that government, business and academia invest in ambitious UK talent, giving them the tools to pioneer new discoveries that benefit all our lives while creating new jobs and growing the economy,” said Science and Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan. “By targeting critical technologies including artificial intelligence and future telecoms, we are supporting world-class universities across the UK to build the skills base we need to unleash the potential of future tech and maintain our country’s reputation as a hub of cutting-edge research and development.”

“The Centres for Doctoral Training will help to prepare the next generation of researchers, specialists and industry experts across a wide range of sectors and industries,” said Professor Charlotte Deane, Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation. “Spanning locations across the UK and a wide range of disciplines, the new centres are a vivid illustration of the UK’s depth of expertise and potential, which will help us to tackle large-scale, complex challenges and benefit society and the economy. The high calibre of both the new centres and applicants is a testament to the abundance of research excellence across the UK, and EPSRC’s role as part of UKRI is to invest in this excellence to advance knowledge and deliver a sustainable, resilient and prosperous nation.”

More than 4,000 doctoral students will be trained over the next nine years, building on EPSRC’s long-standing record of sustained support for doctoral training.

Total investment in the CDTs includes:

  • £479 million by EPSRC, including £16 million of additional UKRI funding to support CDTs in quantum technologies
  • Over £7 million from Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, also part of UKRI, to co-fund three CDTs
  • £16 million by the MOD to support two CDTs
  • £169 million by UK universities
  • plus a further £420 million in financial and in-kind support from business partners

This investment includes an additional £135 million for CDTs which will start in 2025. More than 1,400 companies, higher education institutions, charities and civic organisations are taking part in the centres for doctoral training. CDTs have a significant reputation for training future UK academics, industrialists and innovators who have gone on to develop the latest technologies.

Major investment in doctoral training announced (2024)
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