Training the next generation of research leaders

Two students writing on a white board

Lancaster University is to share in one of the UK’s most significant investments in research skills.

Lancaster will help develop a new generation of highly skilled research leaders in areas vital to support the UK’s future economy through funding for Centres for Doctoral Training in Statistics and Operational Research in partnership with industry (STOR-i), and Growing skills for Reliable Economic Energy from Nuclear (GREEN).

More than 70 Centres for Doctoral Training have been announced today (Monday, February 4) by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), at a special event held at the London Stock Exchange.

The centres, which will be funded through £444 million from the EPSRC and a further £2.2 million from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), will equip the UK with the next generation of doctoral level researchers it needs across the breadth of the engineering and physical sciences landscape.

Science and Innovation Minister Chris Skidmore said: “As we explore new research to boost our economy with an increase of over £7 billion invested in R&D over five years to 2021/22 – the highest increase for over 40 years – we will need skilled people to turn ideas into inventions that can have a positive impact on our daily lives.

“The Centres for Doctoral Training at universities across the country will offer the next generation of PHD students the ability to get ahead of the curve. In addition, this has resulted in nearly £400 million being leveraged from industry partners. This is our modern Industrial Strategy in action, ensuring all corners of the UK thrive with the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow.

“As Science Minister, I’m delighted we’re making this massive investment in postgraduate students as part of our increased investment in R&D.”

Professor Mark Walport, UKRI Chief Executive, said: “Highly talented people are required to tackle key global challenges such as sustainable energy and cyber security, and provide leadership across industries and our public services.

“Centres for Doctoral Training provide them with the support, tools and training they need to succeed, and the involvement of 1,400 project partners underlines how much industry and the charity sector value this approach.”

Lancaster University will be delivering doctoral training in two key areas:

The STOR-i Centre for Doctoral Training will train international research leaders in statistics and operational research. The Lancaster-based Centre will benefit from substantial partnerships with several world-leading organisations including BT, Office of National Statistics, Rolls Royce, Royal Mail, Shell and Tesco. These exciting collaborations will provide a unique training environment for tomorrow’s research leaders with industrial challenge inspiring the development of cutting-edge, and impactful mathematical tools for 21st Century data analysis.

The centre, led by Professors Idris Eckley, Kevin Glazebrook and Jonathan Tawn, is funded by over £10 million from EPSRC, Lancaster University and industrial partners. It will train 70 students at Lancaster, in five cohorts, with the first of these due to start in October 2019.

This award builds on a highly successful Centre, established in 2010, which has already trained 100 PhD students. Graduates from the Centre have embarked on exciting careers in academia and industry, working with numerous partner companies and other organisations including British Airways, EDF Energy and the Williams Formula 1 Team.

Jonathan Tawn, Distinguished Professor of Statistics, said: “We are really excited about this award. It builds on our international reputation for leading-edge research and training in statistics and operational research. These areas of the mathematical sciences are fundamental to underpinning the 21st Century’s data-driven revolution. The Centre will produce a new generation of graduates producing high-quality research and major industrial and scientific impact.”

STOR-i is a joint venture between the Lancaster University’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Department of Management Science.

GREEN (Growing skills for Reliable Economic Energy from Nuclear) is a consortium of the five universities of Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield, which aims to train the next generation of expert nuclear scientists and engineers.Nuclear will be an essential component in the country’s efforts to meet climate change targets; but to remain at the forefront of the industry the UK needs new ‘Subject Matter Experts’.

GREEN will provide both academic and industry-based research partnerships. A taught programme of learning, secondment opportunities, industrial co-supervision and a fully industry-based PhD project will shape graduates into the experts the nuclear industry needs.

Lancaster University’s Professor Colin Boxall, Lloyd's Register Foundation Chair, and partner in the GREEN CDT, said: “Achieving the Government’s ‘Clean Growth’ ambition and ensuring the UK remains at the cutting edge of nuclear energy markets requires a reliable pipeline of sufficiently highly-skilled entrants to the profession.

“The GREEN Centre for Doctoral Training, as a leading provider of the next generation of nuclear professionals, will play a critical part in supporting industry in the sector and the Government’s nuclear energy and Clean Growth agendas.”

The importance of developing STEM skills is a key part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, ensuring that all areas of the UK embrace innovation and build the skills the economy needs to thrive.

Professor Lynn Gladden, EPSRC’s Executive Chair, said: The UK’s research base makes the discoveries that lead to innovations and these can improve lives and generate income for the UK. Centres for Doctoral Training have already proven to be successful in attracting the world’s brightest minds and industry support to address the scientific and engineering challenges we face. This new cadre will continue to build on previous investment.”

The EPSRC has supported over 50,000 doctoral students over the last 25 years.

Over this time it has reviewed and evolved the support it provides to ensure it meets the needs of the research and innovation community. CDTs are one of three ways that EPSRC funds doctoral training with the other routes being Doctoral Training Partnerships and Industrial CASE. CDT investments comprise of around 45 per cent of EPSRC’s doctoral training investment.

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