From advanced biology to crop improvements and the science of sheep health - new government award for doctoral training partnership

A consortium of Midlands research-active universities has just been awarded research studentships worth over £20 million to build on the Midlands’ already significant bio-economy and success in life sciences and agricultural research.

The Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership 2020 (MIBTP2020) is led by the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick, in partnership with the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester, Aston University and Harper Adams University.

The funding comes from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council arm of the Government’s UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding organisation. This award will be matched by the universities in the partnership to fund a total of 245 doctoral students (59 per year) over the next 5 years.

Professor Tim Softley, Pro-vice-chancellor for research and knowledge transfer at the University of Birmingham, said: "We are delighted with the announcement of this £20m BBSRC doctoral training award, which is a mark of the outstanding quality of the training that we provide across the partner universities, the quality of the PhD students that we are able to attract and our demonstrated ability to collaborate effectively across the partner universities within the Midlands Innovation group to provide a unique experience for the students.

"The programme provides an exciting vision for developing the next generation of leading bioscientists who in the future will tackle the great challenges facing society and the economy including food security, sustainable agriculture, environmental toxicology and much more. PhD students lie at the heart of our research communities, and it is vital that they become embedded in a collaborative, interdisciplinary culture that takes advantage of rapidly advancing technologies in the life sciences, artificial intelligence and machine learning, genomic sciences, and the outstanding expertise and excellent facilities that our partnership provides.

"The strong links to industry are key part of our collaborative programme and this will not only provide opportunities for the future careers of the students to become leaders in innovation in a wide variety of industry sectors, but also help to develop strong partnerships between our universities and the life sciences industry and those companies at the forefront of the bioeconomy."

The Director of MIBTP2020 at the University of Birmingham, Dr Tim Knowles, said: “We are ecstatic that the BBSRC has chosen to invest in this research partnership. It is a huge boost to the Midlands economy and a clear show of faith in the excellent science conducted here. This partnership brings together diverse interdisciplinary research talent both within academia and industry and will strengthen the world leading life-science research within the region.”

Announcing the DTP award, Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC’s Executive Chair, said: “The success of the UK’s science sector and the consequent benefits to society and the economy relies on great researchers doing great work.

“Our Doctoral Training Partnerships have already supported the training of hundreds of early career scientists working at the cutting edge of biology and biotechnology.

“By continuing to fund, through this significant £170 million investment, vital training of the next generation of researchers we will help ensure that the UK consolidates its position as world-leader in this crucial sector.”

Professor Alec Cameron, Chair of the Board of Midlands Innovation said: “It is fantastic to see the announcement of this new collaborative Doctoral Training Partnership which includes four members of the Midlands Innovation university consortium. The DTP builds upon a strong heritage of life sciences research and collaboration across the Midlands and further strengthens the ties between our institutions.”

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