The University of Birmingham is among 24 UK universities to receive a share of £350 million announced by Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts, today (22 November). 

The £350 million fund will be used to train over 3,500 post graduate students in engineering and physical sciences as part of the UK's largest investment in post graduate training in engineering and physical sciences. 

The funding, targeted at areas vital to economic growth, has been allocated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). 

The University of Birmingham programme, Sci-Phy-4-Health, will train over 50 students from different scientific backgrounds in an innovative programme that combines chemistry, physics, engineering and computer science to address three key UK healthcare challenges: 

  • Trauma -the major killer of under 40s in the UK  and over 65s 
  • Cardiovascular disease - the major killer of over 65s in the UK 
  • Aging, a UK healthcare grand challenge. 

Collaborations with 18 industrial companies, several national research institutes and a leading NHS acute Hospital are embedded in the programme to ensure developments have immediate impact on patients.

The Sci-Phy Centre will underpin UK competitiveness in biomedical technologies: an area of rapid growth with a global market of more than $1 trillion.  EPSRC’s investment reflects its desire to support innovative research that connects to key industries and important technologies that which will aid innovation and growth in the UK.  

Professor Mike Hannon, who will chair the new centre, explains: “This unique programme will underpin UK competitiveness in biomedical technologies.  It addresses an identified need from our industrial partners for PhD scientists trained at the interface with biology and medicine, and able to communicate and research across these disciplines, such that they are flexible and innovative workers who can move between projects and indeed disciplines as company priorities evolve and change.”  

Professor Adam Tickell, Provost of the University of Birmingham said “This award reflects Birmingham’s position as an internationally leading provider of innovative research training at the interface between Physical Science and Medicine.  The research it will generate has potential to transform patient care through its links to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.”

Dr Louise Armstrong Portfolio Director at PerkinElmer Life Sciences (Coventry), said “The Sci-Phy Centre is very exciting, and PerkinElmer is delighted to have been able to work with the University of Birmingham on shaping those plans. With their background and varied skills, the Sci-Phy graduates will provide valuable contributions to our industry.”

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.”

Paul Golby, EPSRC’s Chair, said: “Centres for Doctoral Training have already proved to be a great success and the model is popular with students, business and industry. These new centres will give the country the highly trained scientists and engineers it needs and they will be equipped with skills to move on in their careers. The standard of applications for Centres was very high and more could have been funded if we had the capacity.”

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For further information contact the EPSRC Press Office, Tel: 01793 444 404 

The Sci-Phy Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) 

Sci-Phy will train cohorts of graduates from different scientific backgrounds together in a unique interdisciplinary programme that combines physical sciences, computer sciences and biomedicine and breaks down the boundaries between these disciplines. Each Doctoral Research Student will be funded for four years and their research programme will be underpinned by a multi-disciplinary taught programme and enhanced by transferable and project management skills training, as well as Knowledge Transfer and Public Engagement of Science activities. The Centre will train cohorts of students together and provides a supportive and exciting environment for students, building relationships between students, staff and industrial partners that will last far beyond the period of their doctoral studies. The Centre will run from 2014-2022 and the £7M cost of the Sci-Phy Centre will be co-funded by EPSRC, The University of Birmingham and the industrial and public sector partners.  The industrial partners will help to supervise students, offer placements and site-visits, deliver lectures as part of the training and monitor and advise on the training programme.  

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training

Centres for Doctoral Training are one of the three main ways by which EPSRC provides support for Doctoral Training. The other routes are the Doctoral Training Grant and Industrial Case Studentships. It is anticipated that much of the need for doctoral students in many areas will continue to be met by the DTG and ICASE, which together make up more than 50 per cent of EPSRC’s current spend on studentships.

For media enquiries, please contact Samantha Williams, University of Birmingham press office, +44 (0)121 414 6029