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Bristol leaps ahead in training next generation of leaders to tackle major global challenges

Engineering Biology researchers working in a laboratory Felix Russell-Saw

Research students from the Industrial Doctorate Centre in Composites Manufacture inspect a demonstrator sustainable composite panel, for use as a lightweight portable wheelchair ramp, made at the National Composite Centre in Bristol Industrial Doctoral Centre in Composites Manufacture

A projected image of the main building at the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus, where two of the CDTs will be based. FCB Studios

Press release issued: 12 March 2024

Hundreds of talented scientists and engineers are set to advance solutions for some of the world’s most pressing challenges, ranging from reaching net-zero and developing sustainable energy to improving digital security and making the latest health breakthroughs.

The University of Bristol is today celebrating nine Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) which will equip and nurture engineering and science students, thanks to a nationally-leading £57 million funding boost from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and its Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The centres, also backed by dozens of industry partners, will develop vital research, industry expertise and innovation in diverse fields including cyber security, global health resilience, sustainable energy, Artificial Intelligence (AI), quantum technology, and the production of new foods, medicines, and products.

More than 500 students are expected to embark on fully-funded four-year PhD programmes, with the first groups of successful candidates due to start in September. Most students go on to deploy and share the skills acquired in businesses including their own startups, public service, or further research endeavours.

A key reason for Bristol's CDT success is the University's strong links with partners in business and industry. The University is prioritising these links through its Bristol Innovations initiative, which is growing the value and diversity of Bristol as a global leader for innovation and helping to boost the translation of ideas to market with new investment from industry and government. 

Professor Ian Bond, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Science and Engineering at the University of Bristol, said: “This is a hugely exciting achievement, which will generate a wealth of opportunities for highly capable postgraduate researchers to develop their ideas, skills, and expertise to deliver new research across a host of key disciplinary areas.

“Their work will help address some of the biggest challenges facing us today, harnessing the very latest knowledge and technology. Joining forces with existing and new academic, industrial and commercial partners, they will pioneer innovations and generate understanding for our future collective health, prosperity and security, while also forging their own promising careers.”

Bristol was awarded joint highest number of centres in this latest funding round, including one led by the University of Salford, bearing testimony to the University’s broad research strengths and excellent track record in supporting and upskilling new talent on a global stage. Six of the nine centres are completely new and three are being renewed following previous successes.

Two of the centres, focused on key national priorities cyber security and AI, will be based at the University’s new £500 million Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus (TQEC), which is currently under construction.

The CDT in cyber security and resilience in large-scale infrastructures will help protect essential services, ranging from water, power and transport to banking, financial services and online interactions with family and friends. Improving cyber security in these realms is paramount, as they become increasingly interconnected and prone to attack.

Centre lead Awais Rashid, Professor of Cyber Security at the University of Bristol, said: “It is vital the systems, data, and information at the heart of our daily lives are cyber secure everywhere. We’re committed to developing future leaders who can anticipate and address the many challenges and threats posed, ensuring resilience, safety, and economic growth in a fast-changing world.”

The UKRI-funded CDT in practice-focused AI, the second in this field at the University, will support students to design and manage the entire lifecycle of AI applications in science and research. Realising the potential of Isambard-AI, the UK’s fastest supercomputer set to arrive soon in Bristol, AI-driven solutions will be generated in a safe, transparent way.

Other CDTs at the University will concentrate on environmental and health issues. For instance, the Engineering Biology CDT, also funded by the UKRI Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) will develop innovations in vaccine design, microbial communities to recover energy from wastewater, and engineering models for wound healing in living tissues.

The Aerosol Science CDT, which started in 2019, produced vital research during the COVID-19 pandemic on the airborne spread of the virus. Its pioneering work will continue to address significant global challenges, including climate change, air quality, drug delivery, and sustainable new materials, informing public health policy and innovation.

Professor Evelyn Welch, Vice-Chancellor and President at the University of Bristol, said: “This is absolutely tremendous news for talented scientists and engineers, the University, and society as a whole. We are delighted to be at the forefront of training and championing the next generation of leaders, who will play a pivotal role in solving wide-ranging problems as well as improving people’s lives.

“It is especially exciting that two of the Centres for Doctoral Training are set to be based at our new Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus, which is fast taking shape and will empower tomorrow’s leaders to commercialise their research. Working with a host of industry partners, this will create jobs, attract inward investment, and support sustainable, inclusive growth for our region and beyond.”    

Professor Charlotte Deane, Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, said: “The Centres for Doctoral Training announced today will help to prepare the next generation of researchers, specialists and industry experts across a wide range of sectors and industries.

“Spanning locations across the UK and a wide range of disciplines, the new centres are a vivid illustration of the UK’s depth of expertise and potential, which will help us to tackle large-scale, complex challenges and benefit society and the economy.

"The high calibre of both the new centres and applicants is a testament to the abundance of research excellence across the UK, and EPSRC’s role as part of UKRI is to invest in this excellence to advance knowledge and deliver a sustainable, resilient and prosperous nation.”

Michelle Donelan, Science and Technology Secretary, said:“As innovators across the world break new ground faster than ever, it is vital that government, business and academia invests in ambitious UK talent, giving them the tools to pioneer new discoveries that benefit all our lives while creating new jobs and growing the economy.

“By targeting critical technologies including artificial intelligence and future telecoms, we are supporting world class universities across the UK to build the skills base we need to unleash the potential of future tech and maintain our country’s reputation as a hub of cutting-edge research and development.”

Further information

The nine Centres to receive funding at the University of Bristol are:

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Secure Everywhere: Resilience in a World of Disappearing System Boundaries at the University’s School of Computer Science

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Quantum Information Science and Technologies at the University’s School of Physics

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Superconductivity: Enabling Transformative Technologies at the University’s School of Physics

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Technology-Enhanced Chemical Synthesis (TECS) at the University’s School of Chemistry

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Aerosol Science: Harnessing Aerosol Science for Improved Security, Resilience, and Global Health at the University’s School of Chemistry

EPSRC and BBSRC Centre for Doctoral Training Centre for Doctoral Training in Engineering Biology at the University’s School of Engineering Mathematics and Technology (with the Schools of Biochemistry, Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry and Physics)

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Innovation for Sustainable Composites Engineering at the University’s School of Civil Aerospace and Design Engineering

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Sound Futures at the University’s School of Civil Aerospace and Design Engineering, led by the University of Salford

UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Practice-oriented Artificial Intelligence (PrO-AI) at the University’s School of Computer Science (announced in October)

Centres for Doctoral Training

CDT students are funded for four years and the programme includes technical and transferrable skills training, as well as a research element. The centres bring together diverse areas of expertise to train engineers and scientists with the skills, knowledge and confidence to tackle today’s evolving issues and future challenges. They also provide a supportive and exciting environment for students, create new working cultures, build relationships between teams in universities and forge lasting links with industry.


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