Universities get cash injection to train next generation in science and technology

Newcastle and Durham University have a share of around £10m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Dozens of PHD students will be funded by the research cash
Dozens of PHD students will be funded by the research cash

Universities in the region will get a multi-million pound funding boost to prepare the next generation for careers in science and technology.

Newcastle University and Durham University are being awarded a share of a £350m pot from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Universities and Science Minister David Willetts will announce today.

The cash injection is aimed at building links between industry and academia in the region, placing students at the forefront of the global science race.

On Tyneside, The Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics will be set up, linking digital technology to the design of local government services in Newcastle Gateshead and Northumberland.

Professors Patrick Olivier and Peter Wright will train more than 60 PhD students over nine years, and the team will explore how digital technologies can promote participation and shape council services.

Professor Olivier, of the university’s Culture Lab, said: “The technological advances we have all witnessed in the last 20 years mean that new grassroots models of service provision and government are now genuinely possible and the goal of the centre will be to train a generation of researchers capable of realising these.”

Professor Wright said: “One of the biggest challenges for Digital Civics is that it needs researchers that are not just technologists, but also experts in areas such as health, politics, planning and education.

“This will require researchers who understand the potential and the limitations of digital technologies, but who also know how to engage with communities to innovate in the design of new services that really meet their needs.”

Leader of Newcastle City Council Nick Forbes said: “This leading centre will help create the jobs of the future which is exactly what we need, and anything that enhances public services and improves quality of life for residents is a good thing for the city and the region.”

Meanwhile in Durham, university leaders have the cash to set up the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces where 80 PhD studentships will be on offer over five years.

Postgraduates will spend time working for companies like AkzoNobel, Mars, Michelin, Procter and Gamble and Unilever and at the university study disciplines from food science to engineering/computing sciences.

Each student will also spend three months at universities overseas and back in the North East over summers will complete a mini-MBA at Durham University Business School.

Professor Tom McLeish, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Durham University, said: “It’s particularly exciting that alongside their scientific research, students will also be taught valuable business skills which will further enhance their employment prospects and encourage entrepreneurship so they can translate their research into products for the marketplace.”

Science Minister David Willetts said: “Scientists and engineers are vital to our economy and society. It is their talent and imagination, as well as their knowledge and skills, that inspire innovation and drive growth across a range of sectors, from manufacturing to financial services.

“I am particularly pleased to see strong partnerships between universities, industry and business among the new centres announced today. This type of collaboration is a key element of our industrial strategy and will continue to keep us at the forefront of the global science race.”


David Whetstone
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