Leicester benefits from £100m NERC investment in environmental science doctoral training

Posted by er134 at Nov 05, 2013 03:45 PM |
Funding to be used to support a broad range of subjects across environmental sciences at University of Leicester

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 5 November 2013

The Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, has announced £100 million of new NERC investment in fifteen Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs), which specialise in training environmental science PhD students.

This investment reflects NERC’s renewed commitment to postgraduate training, as set out in the new NERC strategy, has also been published.

The University of Leicester will play a key part in the new programme and is part of the Central England NERC Training Alliance (CENTA). This Alliance, led by the University of Birmingham, consists of seven partners.

University of Leicester Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Bob Burgess, said: “I am delighted that the University of Leicester is involved in this new programme. It highlights our expertise in providing training for researchers in the field of environmental science and will allow more students to take up opportunities of researching environmental issues.”

Professor Martin Barstow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Science and Engineering, said: “The award of a NERC Doctoral Training Partnership grant to the University is tremendous recognition of the high quality of our research and our ability to train future generations of scientists. This success is a great tribute to the efforts of the team involved in the bid and environmental researchers across the institution.”

The University of Leicester has expertise in a number of  areas where the CENTA partnership has particular research strength. These are:

  • Anthropogenic impacts and environmental sustainability. Key areas of strength include pollutants in the atmosphere and aquatic environments, and satellite-based observations of the climate system.
  • Evolution of organisms and ecosystems. Key areas of strength include modern and ancient ecosystems, responses to environmental change, vertebrates – living and fossil, exceptional preservation of fossils and their evolutionary implications, microfossils and how they link to climate change studies and hydrocarbon exploration.
  • Dynamic Earth. Key areas of strength include magma dynamics, tectonic and Earth surface processes, rates and timescales of geological processes, palaeoenvironments and palaeoclimates, all underpinned by cross-cutting excellence in chemical analysis of rocks, fossils and geological processes.

University of Leicester Departments involved in the programme include Biology, Chemistry, Genetics, Geography, Geology, Physics and Astronomy.

Professor Mark Purnell, of the Department of Geology, said: “From a Leicester perspective, this five year support for PhD funding is important confirmation of our strength in environmental research and training. It will allow us to train the next generation of environmental researchers while generating fundamental new knowledge of the Earth and its organisms, environments, atmosphere and evolution - now, in the past and into the future.”

Dr Nick Tate, of the Department of Geography  and Director of postgraduate research in the College, said: “To be supported by NERC in this way is a wonderful opportunity for all those pursuing environmental research across the university.  In the College of Science and Engineering we are particularly excited to be able to mould the next generation of researchers.”

Professor Heiko Balzter, of the Department of Geography, added: “The University of Leicester is recognised for its excellent research training provision in environmental research.

“The funding of new studentships will contribute to more effective environmental policies and the economic recovery in the UK by linking individual projects with companies to deliver environmental solutions.”

The DTPs will support 1200 PhD students across the fifteen partnerships. This means at least 240 new students will begin training every year for five years, with the opportunity for partners to co-fund, boosting the number of studentships available.

The fifteen partnerships include collaborations between 38 UK higher education institutions and 280 partner organisations, including businesses, policy-makers, and public and third sector organisations, such as Unilever, Scottish Water, and The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

The strong focus on collaboration within and between the DTPs allows partners to pool their experience to create rich training environments for students and encourage knowledge-sharing and interconnectivity, which benefits environmental science researchers.

The DTPs will offer postgraduate studentships and training across the full range of NERC’s disciplines, and in multidisciplinary environments, helping to enrich the student experience. Each DTP will create a strong and active community of students that are able – and encouraged – to integrate, work, and learn together. These students will receive in-depth, advanced research training, as well as training in the professional and transferable skills essential in today’s economy.

An integral element of the NERC DTP programme is that a minimum of 30% (or 360) of the students will work with and undertake research projects that are directly relevant to non-academic partners. This will help keep the UK at the forefront of research training, and provide students with the training experience they need to enter a wide range of careers.

Science and Universities minister David Willetts said: “This significant investment highlights the Government’s commitment to supporting postgraduate training and research in the environmental sciences. We're dedicated to providing the next generation of environmental researchers with the necessary skills and training to succeed in academia and industry.

"The strong support for this programme from a number of international partners such as BP, Microsoft and Arup is enormously encouraging. Not only will this initiative benefit students, UK research organisations, business, industry and the economy, it will keep us at the forefront of the global science race.”

Professor Duncan Wingham, chief executive of NERC, said: “If UK environmental sciences are going to continue to prosper, we need to make sure we get the best from our students. These DTPs position us to compete in an increasingly competitive global environment by training students in the best possible way to use environmental sciences to help meet the challenges and opportunities facing us today.

We want to provide these students with the skillsets and experiences to equip them to become future scientific leaders, and sustain the flow of top talent and skilled people for UK research, business and government. Encouraging collaboration between academic institutions and partners across the environmental sciences sector when delivering training for every student will help achieve this.

NERC DTPs will further scientific progress and support UK economic growth, job creation and prosperity.”

Kirsty Grainger, NERC’s head of skills and careers, said: “We are thrilled to have received such strong support for the NERC DTPs from all parts of the community and this support is evident in the truly world-leading partners present across the DTPs. We are looking forward to working closely with the DTPs to support and develop the next generation of environmental science researchers.

We would like to extend our thanks to the Training Advisory Group and assessment panel members who dedicated a large portion of their time to guiding, developing and maturing this process. NERC would also like to thank all those involved in submitting such excellent applications. We have had to make some difficult decisions during this process but we hope that the benefits of these DTPs are felt by the UK for years to come.”


Further information:

Issued by:

NERC press office, pressoffice@nerc.ac.uk

Tamera Jones, tane@nerc.ac.uk

Contact details:

Kirsty Grainger, NERC’s head of skills and careers,  khg@nerc.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

1. The names of the NERC Doctoral Training Partners and a range of the partners involved can be found below in alphabetical order:


Name of DTP

Organisations involved in the Partnership include

(administrative lead in bold)

Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment (ACCE)

  • University of Sheffield
  • University of York
  • University of Liverpool
  • Centre for Ecology and  Hydrology (CEH)
  • The Environment Agency
  • Parsons Brinckerhoff
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds


+ 25 other named partners

Central England NERC Training Alliance (CENTA)

  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Leicester
  • Open University
  • Loughborough University
  • University of Warwick
  • British Geological Survey (BGS)
  • CEH

E3 - Edinburgh Earth and Environment- Doctoral Training Partnership

  • University of Edinburgh
  • BGS
  • CEH
  • Met Office
  • National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS)
  • Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS)
  • James Hutton Institute (JHI)
  • TOTAL Exploration and Production UK Ltd
  • Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
  • Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation


+ 9 other named partners

Environment East (EnvEast) Doctoral Training Partnership

  • University of East Anglia
  • University of Kent
  • University of Essex
  • British Antarctic Survey
  • BGS; John Innes Centre
  • Marine Biological Association (MBA)
  • Met Office
  • Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS)
  • Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML)
  • CEH
  • Birdlife International
  • The Genome Analysis Centre
  • The Sainsbury Laboratory


+ 9 other named partners

ENVISION: Developing next generation leaders in environmental science

  • Lancaster University
  • Bangor University
  • University of Nottingham
  • CEH
  • BGS
  • Rothemsted Research
  • National Oceanography Centre (NOC)
  • NCAS
  • Bowleven PLC
  • EDP Renewables
  • Royal Zoological Society Scotland


+ 36 other named partners

GW4+ - a consortium of excellence in innovative research training

  • University of Bristol
  • University of Exeter
  • Cardiff University
  • University of Bath
  • BAS
  • BGS
  • CEH
  • PML
  • Met Office
  • Natural History Museum (NHM)
  • BHP Billiton
  • Food and Environment Research Agency
  • Syngenta


+ 23 other named partners

IAPETUS: Postgraduate Environmental Training NexUS: transforming doctoral students into the next generation leaders in science, industry and policy

  • Durham University
  • Newcastle University
  • University of Glasgow
  • University of Stirling
  • University of St. Andrews
  • BGS
  • CEH
  • NOC
  • PML
  • Sony CSL Paris
  • Statoil UK Ltd
  • Thermofisher Scientific


+ 32 other named partners

NERC Science @ Leeds and York – Site for PhD Training in Environmental Research (SPHERES)

  • University of Leeds
  • York UniversityBGS
  • CEH
  • NCAS
  • The National Trust
  • Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology
  • Klondike Gold Corporation


+ 41 other named partners

SCENARIO: Postgraduate centre in the SCience of the Environment: Natural and Anthropogenic pRocesses, Impacts and Opportunities

  • University of Reading
  • University of Surrey
  • CEH
  • BGS
  • NCAS
  • National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO)
  • Met Office
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Thames Water
  • Willis Ltd.


+ 12 other named partners

Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet

  • Imperial College London
  • BGS
  • CEH
  • Met Office
  • NCAS
  • NOC
  • NHM
  • Sainsbury’s Stores Ltd
  • Veolia Environmental Services
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Kew


+ 24 other named partners

SPITFIRE – the Southampton Partnership for Innovative Training of Future Investigators Researching the Environment

  • University of Southampton
  • NOC
  • BAS
  • CEH
  • MBA
  • PML
  • BGS
  • Yale University
  • Stratex International PLC.


+ 58 other named partners

The Cambridge Earth System Science DTP: Multi-disciplinary studies of the solid Earth, its atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere and biosphere.

  • University of Cambridge
  • BAS
  • Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • Schlumberger Gould Research
  • Waitrose Ltd


+ 20 other named partners

The London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership

  • University College London
  • Birkbeck
  • Brunel University
  • King’s College London
  • NHM
  • Queen Mary University
  • Royal Holloway
  • Microsoft International
  • Forestry Commission
  • Ove Arup and Partners Ltd


+ 27 other named partners

The Oxford DTP in Environmental Research

  • University of Oxford
  • BGS
  • CEH
  • Met Office
  • NCAS
  • NCEO
  • NOC
  • Shell Research Ltd
  • Max Planck Institute
  • Rutherford Appleton Laboratory


+ 9 other named partners

Training the next generation of environmental scientists

  • The University of Manchester
  • University of Liverpool
  • NOC
  • BGS
  • Met Office
  • NCAS
  • BP Alternative Energy
  • Diamond Light Source
  • Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD)


+ 2 other named partners

2. About DTPs:
The decision to change from allocating studentships using the NERC studentship algorithm to a more competitive process was made following discussion by NERC Council, during the Training Allocation and Delivery Mechanisms Review and with the NERC Training Advisory Group (TAG). It was agreed that shifting to a more open training competition would be the best way for NERC to meet our training success criteria. A competition would offer a real opportunity for innovation and should aim to establish community-led clusters of excellence, working in partnership with NERC, and with a strong steer towards partnerships between research organisations so that training best meets the success criteria. It would result in a smaller number of larger, longer-term grants competitively awarded; doctoral training partnerships (DTPs).

Further information concerning the Training Review, the NERC Success Criteria and the TAG can be found below:


3. NERC is the largest funder of environmental science in the UK. We invest £330m in cutting-edge research, training and knowledge transfer in the environmental sciences. Our scientists study and monitor the whole planet, from pole to pole, and from the deep Earth and oceans to the edge of space. We address and respond to critical issues such as environmental hazards, resource security and environmental change. Through collaboration with other science disciplines, with UK business and with policy-makers, we make sure our knowledge and skills support sustainable economic growth and public wellbeing - reducing risks to health, infrastructure, supply chains and our changing environment. www.nerc.ac.uk, @NERCscience

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