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£9m for biosciences students to meet challenges of the future

Minister David Willets, has announced £9 million for biosciences postgraduate training between Newcastle, Durham and Liverpool Universities. Over the next three years, this will support 45 four-year PhD students.

Newcastle University is leading the collaboration with Durham and Liverpool universities and will be given £4.5m by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, (BBSRC), with another £4.5m from other sources.

This Doctoral Training Partnership is one of 14 across the UK supported by £67m of new investment in postgraduate training and development in the biosciences by BBSRC. It has also announced a number of industrial CASE (iCASE) studentship awards.

The programmes will provide highlly skilled scientists for academia, policy and industry and support the BBSRC mission to further scientific knowledge for economic growth, wealth and job creation - improving the quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Newcastle University's Professor Barry Hirst, lead for the Doctoral Training Partnership, said: “This is a fantastic investment for training bioscientists.  Approximately, £5.5 million of the investment will come to the northeast. 

"Training will focus on our world-class research in national strategically important research areas, including into lifelong health and wellbeing, diet and health, microbial food safety, animal health and welfare, and crop science.  It will bring top-class scientists from all over the country and further afield to train in the north-east.”

Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, speaking about the national investment, said: “This £67 million investment in postgraduate training is excellent news for students, research organisations, industry and the UK as a whole. The brightest and best students will be finding solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing us all, from food security through to renewable energy.

“The partnership approach means that many institutions are combining their strengths to provide students with improved training and relevant work experience. This will better equip them for future careers, be it in research, industry, or elsewhere.”

The DTPs represent a new, more strategic approach from BBSRC to deliver highly skilled scientists for the UK research base. Taken as a whole, the DTP programme will deliver scientists with the training to meet major social and economic challenges in food security, sustainable bioenergy and renewable materials and improving lifelong health and wellbeing, as well as supporting those undertaking research in core underpinning bioscience.

An innovative and integral element of the programme, built in to enhance the employability of the DTP students, is the requirement for them to undertake a three-month professional internship outside of the lab to widen their experience of the areas of work in which they can apply their PhD skills and training. Destinations for these internships will include policymaking, media, teaching and industry.

BBSRC will be working closely with each DTP to support the delivery of excellent training and facilitate the development of a cohort of highly skilled BBSRC early career scientists. To provide greater support for the research training costs of each student, and to recognise rising research inflation, BBSRC is awarding significantly higher research training grants for each student of £5,000 per student, per year.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director of Innovation and Skills said: “We believe that this approach is a great way of doing things, enabling us to support the very best students working in the most important areas from food security through to crucial underpinning bioscience.

“DTPs are all about training researchers to be the best they can be. By doing this we can make real inroads into answering global conundrums which will ultimately have a massive impact on the UK economy and further afield.”

published on: 25 January 2012