The UK maintains a world-class biological and medical research base within its Universities, supporting and collaborating with a raft of companies translating that research into products to improve quality of life. In 2001 the EPSRC launched a major initiative to build research capacity within the UK at the interface between the mathematical and physical, and the life and biomedical sciences. Responding to and funded through this initiative, the Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) was established in 2002 through a £6M EPSRC grant to support the Life Sciences Interface (LSI) Programme.
In due course, the DTC established an Industrial Liaison Committee with leading representatives from the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, biomedical and ICT industries. This industrial support allowed us to develop the industry-based Systems Approaches to Biomedical Sciences (SABS) Programme in 2009 funded by EPSRC and the MRC and in collaboration with 13 industrial partners. Underpinning the SABS programme was (and is) an open innovation concept that allowed directly competing companies to come together in a single, joint collaboration agreement that was then unique and that re-defined how industrial CDTs might function. This third programme was followed in 2011 by the BBSRC-funded Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership, and in 2014 by three further programmes, the EPSRC/Industry funded Synthesis for Biology and Medicine, the EPSRC/BBSRC-funded Synthetic Biology, and the EPSRC/MRC-funded Biomedical Imaging Programmes.
History and reach
We currently have over 45 companies associated with our programmes ranging from major pharma (GSK, Pfizer, Roche, AZ, UCB, Novartis) and imaging and healthcare companies (GE Healthcare, Siemens, Mirada) to SMEs.
After fourteen years, the DTC is now fully established as a core training centre within the University providing exceptionally well-trained researchers conducting cutting edge research across the science divisions, who go on to make major contributions to the UK economy in their future careers.
Starting with an intake of just 9 students in 2002, the DTC has grown steadily over the last 14 years and had its largest intake of 118 new students across 6 programmes in the current academic year. As of October 2016, a total of 689 students have entered the programmes, funding is already in place for a further 300, and over 250 have now graduated. This makes it by far the largest doctoral training programme in interdisciplinary biomedical research in the UK, and probably in the world.
Starting with an intake of just 9 students in 2002, the DTC has grown steadily over the last 14 years and now admits up to 100 students per year.
Our programme provides tailored training to each student, providing for example biological concepts to physical science graduates or advanced mathematics to biologists, giving students enough language to communicate and work with other disciplines. It also seeks to train students as reflective and innovative researchers, assisting them in the transition from taught degree to independent research. As a result, our students have gone on to undertake their DPhil/PhD projects in over 30 Departments across the University spanning the MPLS and MedSci Divisions and with our partner organisations, supervised by over 400 academic and industrial supervisors.