The University will train more scientists through the SWDTP.

South West researchers awarded £4.2m to improve our understanding of life on Earth

A new partnership, announced by the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, aims to establish the South West of England as a centre for international excellence in training for bioscience and food security research.

The South West Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP), comprising the Universities of Bristol, Bath and Exeter, and Rothamsted Research, aims to equip future generations of scientists with skills they need to tackle the many challenges facing society today that have potential solutions in biological science.

The £4.2million SWDTP funding is part of a £67 million of new investment in postgraduate training and development in the biosciences by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to deliver highly skilled scientists for the UK research base.
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 SWDTP will deliver a four-year training programme to 42 BBSRC-funded postgraduate students, alongside 15 postgraduate students supported by the institutions involved in the partnership. It will provide advanced training in molecular, chemical, cellular and structural biology, as well as key strategic areas in food security, such as plant and animal sciences.

Professor Guy Orpen, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Bristol, said: "Our four institutions are strongly placed to address some of the most significant challenges of the twenty-first century through world-class research in bioscience, from molecules to systems. Together we hold a huge range of expertise which the DTP will develop and pass on to a new generation of bioscientists."

Professor Jane Millar, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Bath, Professor Nick Talbot, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter and Professor Keith Goulding at BBSRC Rothamsted Research, added: “As research leaders, we have a strong track record in advancing knowledge through high-quality research and teaching, in partnership with industry and government. The SWDTP is designed to provide outstanding interdisciplinary training in a range of topics in food security and world-class bioscience, underpinned by training in mathematics and complexity science. It will raise the aspirations of students by equipping them with the generic and employability skills needed to become future leaders in academia and industry.

“Together, we present a distinctive cadre of bioscience research staff and students, with established international, national and regional networks, and widely recognised research excellence.”

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 SWDTP will enhance the University of Exeter’s research in food security and provide a boost to the Food Security and Land Research Alliance, launched by the Universities of Exeter and Bristol and Rothamsted Research in October 2011.

Date: 26 January 2012