£4.5m boost from the BBSRC to help region’s bioscientists meet global economic and social challenges

Posted by pt91 at Jan 24, 2012 11:16 AM |
University of Leicester part of a Midlands-wide consortium investing in postgraduate training

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 24 January 2012

The University of Leicester, in partnership with the University of Warwick and University of Birmingham, has been chosen for an investment of approximately £4.5 million in postgraduate training in vital research areas such as food security, bio-energy and mathematical biology.

The Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership will offer up to 90 four-year studentships over the next three academic years as a result of an award by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and match funding from the universities.

BBSRC doctoral training partnerships are part of a £67 million nationwide investment in bioscience training announced by the Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts in order to meet economic and social challenges for the future.

Over the next three years, the University of Leicester and its partners will offer doctoral scholarships in areas such as food security, industrial biotechnology including bio-energy and other technologically innovative biological programmes.

Professor David Wynford-Thomas, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology, welcomed the decision: “This award recognises the very high quality of biological research across these three Midlands universities and their important role in this nationwide drive to improve biosciences skills and training for future generations of scientists.”

Dr Peter Meacock, Director of Postgraduate Research for the College, added: “By operating together in this way we shall be able to offer a broader and stronger training than each institution could do by itself, and produce PhD graduates equipped to make a real impact in their subsequent careers.”

Professor Sarah Hainsworth, Dean of the Graduate School, said: “I am delighted Leicester has obtained this award which recognises the innovative training that the consortium will provide and, in particular, the way in which the programme embeds employability for biological sciences students into their training through the use of internships.  These will be key in providing postgraduate students with the skills they need for their future careers.”

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts 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.”

The DTP funding allows institutions to recruit the best students and secure additional funding from other sources, such as industry or charities to increase the impact of public investment. Some of the research organisations, including the University of Reading, are matching the BBSRC investment from their own budgets to increase the number of PhD students they will train under the programme.

The DTPs have been awarded by BBSRC following a competitive process including assessment by BBSRC’s independent Training Awards Committee. Each student in a DTP will have the benefit of working in an excellent research environment but the awarding criteria also focused on the ability of each partnership to provide the best possible training programme.


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Notes to editors

The 2012 DTP host institutions are:

University of Bristol in collaboration with University of Bath, University of Exeter and Rothamsted Research

University of Cambridge in collaboration with Babraham Institute, European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), Animal Health Trust, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and National Institute of Agricultural Botany

University College London in collaboration with Birkbeck, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Royal Veterinary College and King’s College

University of Edinburgh in collaboration with the Universities of Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews

University of Glasgow in collaboration with University of Strathclyde

Imperial College London in collaboration with Royal Holloway, University of London and Research Complex at Harwell

John Innes Centre in collaboration with Institute of Food Research, University of East Anglia and the Genome Analysis Centre

University of Leeds in collaboration with University of York and University of Sheffield

University of Manchester

Newcastle University in collaboration with University of Liverpool and University of Durham

University of Nottingham in collaboration with Rothamsted Research

University of Oxford

University of Reading in collaboration with the universities of Surrey, Lancaster and Southampton and Rothamsted Research

University of Warwick in collaboration with the University of Birmingham and University of Leicester

About DTPs

The change from the previous Quota DTGs approach to the DTP programme followed detailed discussion by BBSRC's Bioscience Skills and Careers Strategy Panel. The DTP programme draws significantly on the recommendations of an evaluation of the Quota DTG scheme conducted in 2010

DTPs retain many elements of the previous Quota PhD funding programme but feature increased engagement between BBSRC and host institutions.

The DTP programme will fund a smaller number of larger, multi-institutional partnerships, compared to the previous Quota scheme, which primarily awarded training grants at departmental or faculty level. These larger partnerships will enable greater coordination in the provision of specialist training and will benefit from closer working with BBSRC and its Training Awards Committee.

Funding decisions were made by the BBSRC Training Awards Committee. A special meeting of TAC was convened to determine the funding and this was chaired by Mike Goosey, a member of BBSRC Council, to reflect the strategic importance of this investment. For more details about the committee and their method of working visit: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/dtp

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