St Andrews receives major funding for new centre

Friday 5 December 2008

The University of St Andrews has been awarded major funding for a new centre by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to train a new wave of scientists.

The Scottish Doctoral Training Centre for Condensed Matter Physics is a collaborative venture between St Andrews, Edinburgh and Heriot Watt, led by St Andrews under the umbrella of the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA).

Professor Andy Mackenzie from the School of Physics & Astronomy explained, “Winning this funding is a testament to nearly five years of planning and development work that have gone into setting up SUPA and its Graduate School.”

Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, announced the £250million initiative which will create 44 training centres across the UK and generate over 2000 PhD students. They will tackle some of the biggest problems currently facing Britain such as climate change, energy, our ageing population, and high-tech crime.

Professor Mackenzie continued, “All the collegiality and trust necessary for a cross-institutional collaboration had already been built up through working together in SUPA.  Now we are looking forward to the real challenge – delivering an internationally leading product for the doctoral students who will join us and, ultimately, the companies and institutions where they will spend their careers.”

Professor Malcolm Dunn, also from the School of Physics & Astronomy led the St Andrews part of a second pan-Scottish Centre funded under this scheme, the Engineering Doctorate Centre for Optics and Photonics, which builds on a long-standing collaboration between Heriot Watt, St Andrews,  Strathclyde and Glasgow, further enhanced by the creation of SUPA.

EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training are a bold new approach to training PhD students, creating communities of researchers working on current and future challenges. 17 of the new centres will be industrial training centres that will equip their students with the business skills they need to turn pioneering ideas into products and services, boosting their impact on the UK’s economy.

Lord Drayson said, “Britain faces many challenges in the 21st Century and needs scientists and engineers with the right skills to find answers to these challenges, build a strong economy and keep us globally competitive. EPSRC’s doctoral training centres will provide a new wave of engineers and scientists to do the job.”

He continued, “These new centres will help to develop clean renewable energy, fight high tech crime, assist in reducing carbon emissions, and discover new healthcare solutions for an ageing population.  This is an exciting, innovative approach to training young researchers and will help build a better future for Britain.”

The multidisciplinary centres bring together diverse areas of expertise to train engineers and scientists with the skills, knowledge and confidence to tackle today’s evolving issues. They also create new working cultures, build relationships between teams in universities and forge lasting links with business and industry.

Professor Dave Delpy, chief executive of EPSRC, said, “People are the heart of our future strategy. We want to drive a modern economy and meet the challenges of tomorrow by investing in talented people and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

He continued, “EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training expand our existing training portfolio, focus on priority themes for the UK, emerging and multidisciplinary research, and greater collaboration with business.”

Students in these centres will receive a formal programme of taught coursework to develop and enhance their technical interdisciplinary knowledge, and broaden their set of skills. Alongside this they will undertake a challenging and original research project at PhD level.

Professor Mackenzie concluded, “For the St Andrews-led centre the attractiveness of the scheme to industry is exemplified by the fact that over twenty companies and organisations have enthusiastically committed to joining a formal Industrial Associate scheme established by the centre’s management team.  They will visit regularly, and participate in the skills training that will complement the core physics skills that the mainstream training offered by the centre will provide.”

For further information visit the EPSRC website



Professor Andy Mackenzie is available for interview on Tel: 01334 463108, E-mail: [email protected] or Mobile: 07833 628 000.

For additional information contact the EPSRC Press Office on E-mail: [email protected], Tel: 01793 444404, or Mobile: 07776160028 (out of office hours only)

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, investing around £740 million a year in a broad range of subjects – from mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering.

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Fiona Armstrong, Press Officer on 01334 462530 / 462529, Mobile: 07730 415 015 or Email: [email protected]
Ref: EPSRC award 05/12/08
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