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UCL wins £40m EPSRC grant for seven new Centres for Doctoral Training

5 December 2008


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  • UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences
  • UCL Bartlett School
  • The EPSRC
  • UCL has won funding for seven Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) which will 'generate the scientists needed for Britain's future', it was announced today by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC). 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.

    Each UCL Centre will receive around £6m in funding to pay for a total of 350 students (50 per Centre), to take part in 4-year doctorate programmes over the next five years. The first intake of doctorate students will join in October 2009.

    Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, announced the £250m initiative, which will create 44 training centres across the UK and generate over 2000 doctorate 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. 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."

    UCL President and Provost, Professor Malcolm Grant said: "UCL's success in these awards reflects our commitment to the highest rigour in doctoral training, to multidisciplinarity and to powerful engagement with industrial partners."

    Professor Bernard Buxton (Dean of UCL Engineering Sciences) said: "UCL is committed to excellence, to researching the significant scientific questions and engineering challenges of our time, and to seeing the advances and knowledge generated from such research put to use to address national and global problems. Doctorate Centres are an essential ingredient in UCL fulfilling this mission, enabling us to train and instil into the next generation of research leaders the importance of putting research into practice."

    Awards have been made to universities around the country, but UCL's is a particularly large allocation, worth around £40 million (the next biggest award to a single HEI was for four centres). The university is known around the world for its excellence in a multitude of research areas, and its commitment to solutions-focused research. In the spirit of UCL's 'Grand Challenges' initiative, these Centres are drawn together by the fact that all of them are aiming at finding solutions to problems affecting the world today.  Whether they relate to matters of global health, human wellbeing, sustainable cities, or intercultural interaction, they enable UCL's expertise to flow freely from academics to students, and from students to industry.

    You can see a full list of the Centres to receive funding at the foot of this article. UCL already has a number of existing Centres, which provide students with technical depth and management skill breadth so they can work in teams on large-scale work and/or issues.  They achieve this by undertaking a challenging and original research project at PhD level as well as a formal programme of taught coursework to develop and enhance their technical interdisciplinary knowledge and collaboration skills. Of the existing UCL CDTs, four have had their EPSRC funding renewed, and three new Centres have been created in Photonic Systems Development (in partnership with Cambridge University), Financial Computing and Security Science.  In addition, UCL's doctoral centre at the Life Sciences Interface, CoMPLEX was renewed last year.  This gives UCL a total of 8 CDTs.

    The Security Science Centre will be directed by Professor Gloria Laycock, Director of the UCL Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, and is going to prepare the next generation of security scientists to address the challenges posed by crime and terrorism, faced by the UK's citizens and businesses.

    As Professor Laycock explains, the Security Science Centre will "train and shape a generation of thought leaders in integrated and socially sensitive security; this will encompass not only future academics but also the policy makers and industrialists with whom they interact during and after their training. We aim to transform the way security is done."

    Six of the seven Centres fall under the aegis of UCL's Faculty of Engineering Sciences, which engages in internationally renowned research across the spectrum of engineering disciplines and offers leading programmes of study that attract students from across the world. The seventh is an interdisciplinary Centre - encompassing UCL Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Physics, and Chemical Engineering - based mainly in the UCL Faculty of Mathematical & Physical Sciences.

    EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training - an initiative widely supported by business and industry - are a bold new approach to training PhD students, creating communities of researchers working on current and future challenges. Four of the UCL Centres are industrial doctoral training centres (iDTCs), which enable their students not only to carry out front-line research in collaboration with external, usually commercial organisations, but also equip them 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.  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 seven Centres for Doctoral Training to receive funding:

    Existing centres
    Virtual Environments, Imaging and Visualisation (UCL Computer Science and UCL Bartlett)
    Molecular Modelling and Materials Science
    Urban Sustainability and Resilience (UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering and UCL Bartlett)
    Bioprocess Engineering Leadership (UCL Biochemical Engineering)

    New centres
    Financial Computing (UCL Computer Science)
    Security Science (UCL Centre for Crime & Security Science)
    Photonic Systems Development (UCL Electronic & Electrical Engineering)
    UCL Excellence
    UCL's excellence extends across all academic disciplines: from one of Europe's largest and most productive centres for biomedical science interacting with eleven leading London hospitals, to world-renowned centres for engineering, architecture (UCL Bartlett) and fine art (UCL Slade School). Focused on the translation of research into solutions to the world's major problems, UCL works across all its disciplines and with partners all over the world.  The university is also committed to combining the talents of world-class researchers and business brains to allow commercial and social achievements to flourish. Through licensing technologies, joint ventures, consultancy and partnerships, UCL transfers its world-renowned expertise and knowledge to policymakers and the commercial world.

    UCL Engineering Sciences
    UCL's Faculty of Engineering Sciences covers nine departments and twenty-one institutes and centres. Its teaching programmes are focused on engineering disciplines and practices with the greatest impact in the world today, and are driven by the best international research. Recently, its members have been nominated in two categories of the London Knowledge Transfer Awards, and a local coordinates mapping solution called 'SnakeGrid', developed by Dr Jonathan Iliffe (UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering), is expanding into new markets following considerable success with Network Rail. It currently has 186 students researching for an EngD in five Centres.

    UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences (MAPS)
    Another of UCL's world-class faculties, MAPS originated in 1990, when the old Faculty of Science was divided into faculties of Mathematical & Physical Sciences and Life Sciences, reflecting both increasing size and changing perceptions of identity. It is composed of seven departments rated 5 or 5* in the 2001 RAE and currently has over 290 full-time PhD students. It is also involved in seventeen interdisciplinary research centres, and hosts three intercollegiate research centres, including the London Centre for Nanotechnology.

    The EPSRC
    The EPSRC is the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, investing around £740 million a year in a broad range of subjects - from mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering. This new CDT-based 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.