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Boost to doctoral training will support leading research in areas of national importance

The UK’s biggest-ever investment in engineering and physical sciences doctoral skills, totalling more than £1 billion nationwide, has been announced today by the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology.  It includes funding for over 300 fully-funded DPhil (PhD) studentships at Oxford in strategic research areas. 

The funding will enable 65 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) across the UK to train a new generation of researchers to address key challenges in areas that include AI, quantum technology, new materials, engineering biology, and net zero.

Oxford will lead four of the EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training and will be a partner in seven other centres led by the universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester, and York, and Imperial College London.

Oxford has been one of the pioneers of cohort-based doctoral training over the last 20 years since hosting one of the first Life Science Interface centres in 2002. We are delighted to receive continued support from EPSRC and industry to support these cutting-edge programmes that will benefit society and the economy. This investment will enable Oxford, alongside our academic partners, to train scientists and innovators to meet the needs of UK industry and academia, by tackling large-scale, complex challenges such as the transition to net zero.

Professor Patrick Grant, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Oxford

Each CDT addresses key skills gaps that currently hinder the UK’s economic growth and ability to tackle global challenges. They generally focus on rapidly developing fields and the translation of cutting-edge research into practical applications, as well as training in ethics and in responsible research. Through collaboration with a wide range of business partners, including access to funding, training and industry placements, CDT graduates are equipped with a strong understanding of how to drive impact from research.

Professor Martin Williams, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education at the University of Oxford said: “Today’s investment in doctoral training is a significant contribution to Oxford’s educational mission. These fully funded studentships will help to train the next generation of high calibre scientists in research areas of national importance. Crucially they remove cost barriers, opening up training opportunities for researchers from all backgrounds based solely on academic excellence and potential.”

The EPSRC funding covers renewals for three existing CDTs at Oxford, as well as a new CDT in Chemical Synthesis for a Healthy Planet (led by Professor Michael Willis, in partnership with the University of York), whose first students will start in October 2025. This new CDT will train a new generation of ‘green chemists’ who will research sustainable chemistry and circular economy approaches in key industry areas including healthcare, food security, and energy.

Oxford’s Department of Chemistry, together with Oxford Materials, is also host to the CDT for Inorganic Materials for Advanced Manufacturing (IMAT), led by Professor Simon Aldridge. This centre will train the next generation of doctoral scientists in the design, synthesis and characterisation of inorganic materials relevant to the future prosperity of the manufacturing sector.

The CDT in Autonomous Intelligent Machines and Systems (AIMS), led by Professor Michael Osborne (Department of Engineering Science) is training students with theoretical, practical and systems skills in autonomous systems powered by artificial intelligence. These skills will help bring autonomy into multiple sectors, including transport, energy, extreme environments, healthcare, and insurance.

Students in the CDT in Healthcare Data Science (based in Oxford’s Big Data Institute and led by Professor Thomas Nichols) will work with both data scientists and clinicians to address challenges in areas such as disease modelling, clinical decision making, or infectious disease surveillance and response.

Professor James Naismith, Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division said: "The future will need transformational breakthroughs in computing, physical, life, mathematical and engineering sciences for which Oxford is a recognised leader. These new Centres for Doctoral Training are great news because they will enable graduate students to join Oxford to make these breakthroughs. We have a track record, second to none, of training the next generation of scientists, who go on to make enormous contributions to society."

As well as the four Oxford-led CDTs, the University of Oxford is also a major partner with other leading UK universities in the following CDTs:

Developing National Capability for Materials 4.0, led by the Henry Royce Institute, University of Manchester aims to digitalise the materials innovation process to accelerate development, certification and deployment of new materials, and materials systems.

The Engineering Biology CDT (EngBioCDT), led by the University of Bristol will address the national need for ‘Engineering biologists’ capable of translating synthetic biology approaches into commercial, clinical and industrial practice.

Fusion Power, led by the University of York will train at least 100 scientists from diverse backgrounds for leadership roles in fusion power – a potential solution to one of society’s greatest challenges: universal access to plentiful, safe and sustainable power.

The Quantum Informatics CDT, led by the University of Edinburgh will train a new generation of researchers to address fundamental challenges in quantum computing.

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence for Net Zero (RAINZ), led by the University of Manchester will train and develop the next generation of multi-disciplinary robotic systems engineers needed to enable the net zero transition, developing innovative solutions to reduce costs, decarbonise and enhance the overall viability of key energy-generating technologies.

Statistics and Machine Learning (StatML), led by Imperial College London aims to create the next generation of leaders in statistics and machine learning, empowering students to innovate and generate real-world impact and society-changing technologies.

Superconductivity: Enabling Transformative Technologies, led by the University of Bristol aims to create a step change in superconductivity research capacity in the UK, which has the potential to provide a cost-effective alternative to existing technologies, as well as enabling novel technologies spanning the Net-Zero, healthcare, and quantum agendas.

Applications for many of these programmes are now being accepted. For more information, please use the weblink above for each respective CDT or search here.