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CASE evaluation recognises high quality training with industry

31 May 2012

  • Placements are a major strength of the scheme
  • Students developed a broad range of scientific and professional skills
  • BBSRC is implementing some changes to make the process clearer for applicants and to attract more industry partners

An independent evaluation has found that the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council's (BBSRC) Industrial CASE schemes (ref 1) provide high quality training for students, helping them to develop a broad range of both research and professional skills.

The evaluation, which surveyed over 600 students, academics and industry partners, was chaired by Dr Candy Hassall, Head of Basic Careers at the Wellcome Trust. Based on the results, BBSRC is making some immediate changes to its annual Industrial CASE scheme which will be implemented for studentships starting in the 2013/14 academic year, the call for which opens today (31 May 2012).

These changes were recommended by BBSRC's Bioscience Skills and Careers Strategy panel which includes expertise from academia and industry. They aim to make the scheme requirements clearer and simpler while also maximising the value of the training for the students, academic supervisors and industrial partners.

The Industrial CASE schemes provide training grants for PhD studentships which are supervised jointly by academic and industrial partners. As well as providing high-quality training for students, the Industrial CASE scheme helps to foster links between students, academia and industry. By investing in the training of early career researchers, industrial partners can help develop skilled graduates who can contribute to the growth of the bioeconomy.

Over 140 partner companies have participated in BBSRC's Industrial CASE scheme since 2006. However, the evaluation found that having to make a financial contribution to the student's stipend might be deterring some smaller companies from participating in the scheme. There was only limited evidence that this contribution attracted the best students to the scheme, but the 'in-kind' contributions from industry of time and resources were considered very valuable. In recognition of this, BBSRC is removing some of the mandatory requirements for industry partners to make a financial contribution to CASE studentships.

The majority of CASE students undertake a placement with their industrial supervisor and these, the evaluation concluded, were a major strength of the scheme delivering real 'added-value' for students and partners.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director, Innovation and Skills said "Industrial CASE studentships offer a great opportunity for all involved. The students can develop their all-important professional skills while the academic and industrial partners are able to help set the training agenda and to draw on some of the brightest graduates to help drive their work forward. We are pleased that the evaluation has acknowledged this but we don't want to rest on our laurels: we do realise we can still improve. As such we are implementing some changes to the annual Industrial CASE scheme straight away to make sure that all of the partners are able to get the most out of the opportunity that CASE provides and will consider the more detailed recommendations in due course."

The evaluation revealed that not all CASE students went on a placement. BBSRC expects all CASE students to experience a placement and has already made changes to the current call to emphasise that they are obligatory. Also, in order to ensure that as many students as possible complete placements BBSRC is changing the minimum length of a placement to three months. This brings BBSRC schemes in line with those of other Research Councils so making the process simpler for supervisors.

Dr Candy Hassall of the Wellcome Trust who chaired the evaluation panel said "Industrial CASE is an important pillar of BBSRC's training portfolio. It offers distinct benefits to all concerned and helps to foster new partnerships between academia and industry. BBSRC has already taken the opportunity to enhance Industrial CASE by implementing some recommendations from the evaluation and what's exciting is that there is scope to develop the scheme still further.

Up to 90 four-year Industrial CASE studentships starting in the 2013/14 academic year are now available for supervisors to apply for. Applications must be submitted before the closing date of 26 July 2012.

An executive summary of the evaluation is available for download: Evaluation Key Conclusions (PDF 154KB).

ENDS 

About BBSRC CASE schemes

There are two variants of BBSRC's Industrial CASE scheme:

  1. Industrial CASE (iCASE): the standard scheme with an annual funding call; it is open to company-led or academic-led proposals
  2. Industrial CASE Partnership (ICP): provides Industrial CASE studentship allocations covering several years' intake to 'Partner' companies. Historically, BBSRC has invited companies to become 'Partners' based on their track record with iCASE studentships.

For more information about Industrial CASE schemes visit: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/funding/studentships/case.aspx.

About BBSRC

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £445M, we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk .
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes .