University receives funding boost to train tomorrow’s engineers

  • University of Sheffield to receive a share of £446m of funding to recruit PhD students in engineering and physical sciences
  • Centres will develop ‘the skills needed for UK prosperity’
  • Major focus of the students’ training will be working with industry

The University of Sheffield is set to receive a share of £446m to train postgraduate students and tackle research and innovation challenges across the engineering and the physical sciences landscape.

The funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Centre (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has been announced today (Monday 4 February 2019) by Science and Innovation Minister, Chris Skidmore, in a bid to produce highly trained scientists and engineers.

The funding will be a boost for the University’s seven EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) which offer four-year training programmes designed to develop students’ professional skills and technical research experience. Each CDT will train a minimum of 50 researchers.

The students will work in the specialist areas of metallics, compound semiconductor manufacturing, advanced biomedical materials, renewable energy from nuclear, offshore renewable energy, decarbonised energy systems development, and water resilience in cities.

A major part of the CDTs involves collaboration with both national and international companies, including Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Siemens, British Steel, Volkswagen, EDF Energy and Network Rail, to bring both insight and relevance to the students’ training and reduce the gap between academic theory and industrial practice.

The Sheffield CDTs are among over 70 announced today being funded by £444m through the EPSRC and a further £2.2m from The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The Centres’ 1,400 industry partners have contributed £386 million in cash and in-kind support.

One of the centres is the Advanced Metallics System CDT, a partnership between three internationally recognised centres of excellence in metallic materials and digital manufacturing at the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester and a new partnership with I-Form, Dublin (funded by the Science Foundation Ireland).

Novel metallic materials and engineering solutions are essential to a wide range of sectors including aerospace, automotive, defence and renewable energy. The CDT was set up in 2009 to address the critical shortage of doctoral level metallic material manufacturing specialists and since then, has attracted over 140 PhD and EngD students into the metallic materials sector.

Chris Skidmore, Science and Innovation Minister, said: “As we explore new research to boost our economy with an increase of over £7 billion invested in R&D over five years to 2021/22 – the highest increase for over 40 years – we will need skilled people to turn ideas into inventions that can have a positive impact on our daily lives.

“The Centres for Doctoral Training at universities across the country will offer the next generation of PhD students the ability to get ahead of the curve. In addition, this has resulted in nearly £400 million being leveraged from industry partners. This is our modern Industrial Strategy in action, ensuring all corners of the UK thrive with the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow.

“As Science Minister, I’m delighted we’re making this massive investment in postgraduate students as part of our increased investment in R&D.”

Professor Brad Wynne, lead academic and Director of the Advanced Metallic Systems CDT, said: “Metallics is a rapidly evolving manufacturing space, with advanced computing techniques supporting the digital manufacturing era. This funding allows us to continue and adapt to deliver state-of-the-art training in collaboration with our partners to address grand challenges in power generation, transport, sustainability and recyclables via metals with better efficiency, weight, strength and manufacturability.”

Professor Mike Hounslow, Vice-President and Head of the Faculty of Engineering, said: “I am proud of the dynamic research culture here at Sheffield, one that encourages cross-disciplinary collaboration, builds relationships with specialists at other excellent institutions and forges lasting partnerships with industry. Our CDTs are a key part of this, bringing together diverse expertise and training engineers to find solutions for the grand challenges we face today and in the future.”

The importance of developing STEM skills is a key part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, ensuring that all areas of the UK embrace innovation and build the skills the economy needs to thrive.

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