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£67M investment in bioscience skills and training to help meet economic and social challenges for the future

24 January 2012

The Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, will today (24 January) announce £67M of new investment in postgraduate training and development in the biosciences.


UK bioscience: training the next generation  

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The investment, from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), includes support for 14 Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) across the UK as well as a number of industrial CASE (iCASE) studentship awards.

Over the next three years, the DTPs will support 660 four-year PhD students; in addition the iCASE studentships will support 70 postgraduates from this Autumn. Both programmes will provide highly skilled scientists for academia, policy and industry and support the BBSRC mission to further scientific knowledge for economic growth, wealth and job creation - improving the quality of life in the UK and beyond.

The minister will announce the details of the 14 successful Doctoral Training Partnerships, which include a total of 44 research organisations, during a visit to the University of Reading's agricultural research facilities. Reading is a lead institution for one of the DTPs focused on training scientists in food security research.

[l-r] Dr Celia Caulcott, David Willetts and Sir David Bell. Credit: Tim Gander
[l-r] Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director of Innovation and Skills, and Sir David Bell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Reading. Image: Tim Gander

Speaking at the University of Reading, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "This £67M 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 DTPs represent a new, more strategic approach from BBSRC to deliver highly skilled scientists for the UK research base. Taken as a whole, the DTP programme will deliver scientists with the training to meet major social and economic challenges in food security, sustainable bioenergy and renewable materials and improving lifelong health and wellbeing, as well as supporting those undertaking research in core underpinning bioscience.

An innovative and integral element of the programme, built in to enhance the employability of the DTP students, is the requirement for them to undertake a three- month professional internship outside of the lab to widen their experience of the areas of work in which they can apply their PhD skills and training. Destinations for these internships will include policymaking, media, teaching and industry.

[l-r] David Willetts, Sir David Bell, Dr Celia Caulcott and Professor Richard Tiffin. Credit: Tim Gander
[l-r] Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, Sir David Bell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Reading, Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director of Innovation and and Professor Richard Tiffin, Director of the Centre for Food Security, University of Reading. Image: Tim Gander

BBSRC will be working closely with each DTP to support the delivery of excellent training and facilitate the development of a cohort of highly skilled BBSRC early career scientists. To provide greater support for the research training costs of each student, and to recognise rising research inflation, BBSRC is awarding significantly higher research training grants for each student of £5,000 per student, per year.

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 DTP funding allows institutions to recruit the best students and secure additional funding from other sources, such as industry or charities to increase the impact of public investment. Some of the research organisations, including the University of Reading, are matching the BBSRC investment from their own budgets to increase the number of PhD students they will train under the programme.

The DTPs have been awarded by BBSRC following a competitive process including assessment by BBSRC's independent Training Awards Committee. Each student in a DTP will have the benefit of working in an excellent research environment but the awarding criteria also focused on the ability of each partnership to provide the best possible training programme.


Notes to editors

The 2012 DTP host institutions are:

  • University of Bristol in collaboration with University of Bath, University of Exeter and Rothamsted Research
  • University of Cambridge in collaboration with Babraham Institute, European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), Animal Health Trust, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and National Institute of Agricultural Botany
  • University College London in collaboration with Birkbeck, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Royal Veterinary College and King's College
  • The University of Edinburgh in collaboration with the Universities of Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews
  • University of Glasgow in collaboration with University of Strathclyde
  • Imperial College London in collaboration with Royal Holloway, University of London and Research Complex at Harwell
  • John Innes Centre in collaboration with Institute of Food Research, University of East Anglia and The Genome Analysis Centre
  • University of Leeds in collaboration with University of York and The University of Sheffield
  • The University of Manchester
  • Newcastle University in collaboration with University of Liverpool and University of Durham
  • The University of Nottingham in collaboration with Rothamsted Research
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Reading in collaboration with the universities of Surrey, Lancaster and Southampton and Rothamsted Research
  • The University of Warwick in collaboration with the University of Birmingham and University of Leicester

About DTPs

The change from the previous Quota DTGs approach to the DTP programme followed detailed discussion by BBSRC's Bioscience Skills and Careers Strategy Panel. The DTP programme draws significantly on the recommendations of an evaluation of the Quota DTG scheme conducted in 2010.

DTPs retain many elements of the previous Quota PhD funding programme but feature increased engagement between BBSRC and host institutions.

The DTP programme will fund a smaller number of larger, multi-institutional partnerships, compared to the previous Quota scheme, which primarily awarded training grants at departmental or faculty level. These larger partnerships will enable greater coordination in the provision of specialist training and will benefit from closer working with BBSRC and its Training Awards Committee.

Funding decisions were made by the BBSRC Training Awards Committee. A special meeting of TAC was convened to determine the funding and this was chaired by Mike Goosey, a member of BBSRC Council, to reflect the strategic importance of this investment. For more details about the committee and their method of working visit: .

About CASE studentships

CASE studentships provide high quality research training in collaboration with an industrial partner.

They are 4-year doctoral training grants for top quality bioscience graduates to undertake research (leading to a PhD) on a subject selected and supervised jointly by academic and industrial partners.


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:
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see:


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