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SES universities receive a boost to tackle major research and societal challenges

75 Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) across the UK are set to receive over £800 million in support from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and industry partners; part of an increased research and development investment to boost the UK economy and deliver scientific excellence.

24 CDTs led by SES universities will soon benefit from UKRI’s funding of £446 million across 75 centres that will develop skills, bring innovation, and build better lives for UK citizens. The investment has been furthered by £386 million (committed through either cash or in-kind support) from 1,400 Industry partners.  In total, over 1/3 of the newly funded centres are led or supported by SES universities.

In addition to establishing long-term relationships between universities and industry, CDTs connect varied areas of expertise to train researchers, engineers, and scientists in the skills and knowledge required to tackle the issues of today and challenges of tomorrow.

In total, over 1/3 of the newly funded centres are led by SES universities.

Professor David Price, Vice-Provost (Research) at UCL and current Chair of the SES Executive, said: “ This funding will provide a significant economic benefit to the people of the UK for many years to come. CDTs enable the next generation of researchers to make discoveries that will shape the world around us, and enable academic research to be developed into innovations across the fields of healthcare, science, technology and engineering.”

Professor Lynn Gladden, Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), previously Vice-Provost (Research) at the University of Cambridge, said “The UK’s research base makes the discoveries that lead to innovations and these can improve lives and generate income for the UK”

One of the successfully funded CDTs is ‘Smart Medical Imaging at King’s College London and Imperial College London’ led by Professor Julia Schnabel. It brings together scientists, clinicians and healthcare practitioners to train the next generation of medical imaging researchers.  These newly skilled graduates will go on to work in a multidisciplinary healthcare capacity, collaborating with biologists, chemists, computer scientists and engineers to transform the field of medical imaging.  In addition to delivering cutting-edge medical services to UK patients, the CDT will encourage students to develop affordable healthcare solutions, such as reducing the costs of smart medical imaging.


Prof Schnabel spoke with SES in late 2017 about how new MRI imaging techniques and collaborative research are helping to prevent and diagnose lung cancer, heart disease and other health challenges.

Professor Schnabel said, “The new CDT will build upon the success of our existing CDT for Medical Imaging, which has to-date already recruited 80 PhD students, with our very first cohort graduating this year.  The new CDT  will recruit another 5 cohorts, who will work on research projects directed towards at least one of our four new smart medical imaging themes, namely: AI-enabled Imaging, which will improve efficiency in the imaging pipeline from acquisition to reconstruction, analysis and clinical interpretation; Smart Imaging Probes, which, amongst other advantages, will have improved safety profiles and better targeting properties; Emerging Imaging, which will cover areas like high-field magnetic resonance imaging on the new 7T pan-London scanner to be installed shortly at St Thomas’ Hospital, and finally, Affordable Imaging, such as the reduction of observer dependency in low-cost ultrasound imaging through integrated machine learning solutions. They will apply their research to perinatal, cardiovascular, cancer and neuro-imaging challenges to maximise patient benefit and outcome.”

Another of the successfully funded centres is the CDT in Cybersecurity, led by an interdisciplinary group at UCL. The centre responds to the increased need for cybersecurity professionals with an understanding of the intersections of computer and information security, cybercrime, and ethical, regulatory and policy factors. Graduates will be well equipped to work at the highest levels of cybersecurity and able to manage major concerns that call for a broad-based understanding as well as deep specialist knowledge.

The CDT in Cybersecurity Director, Professor David Pym, said: “We’re extremely pleased to be working with colleagues in the social sciences to develop really rounded, critical thinkers who will be equipped to take a fresh approach to the cyber security challenges that will confront us as digital technologies are further incorporated into society.”

“This funding will enable us to support more doctoral students into careers in academia and beyond, and deliver research with real-world impact”

Industrial partners also play a crucial role in funding and supporting CDTs. They deliver training elements and provide relevant research secondments, ultimately responding to societal needs and translating academic research results into real-world applications. Industrial Partners on the new SES-led CDTs include Rolls-Royce, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Dyson, EDF Energy, Hitachi-GE, and Siemens.

Professor David Price added: “Working with partners in industry, universities are uniquely placed to innovate, create and develop ground-breaking solutions that will improve and enhance the lives of future generations. We’re proud of the achievements of our researchers. This funding will enable us to support more doctoral students into careers in academia and beyond, and deliver research with real-world impact.”The funded SES-led CDTs include the EPSPRC Centres for Doctoral Training in:

  • Modern Statistics and Statistical Machine Learning, led by Imperial
  • Advanced Characterisation of Materials (CDT-ACM), led by Imperial
  • BioDesign Engineering, led by Imperial
  • Next Generation Synthesis & Reaction Technology, led by Imperial
  • Chemical Biology – Innovation for the Life Sciences, led by Imperial
  • Nuclear Energy Futures, led by Imperial
  • Smart Medical Imaging at King’s College London and Imperial College London, led by Imperial
  • Connected Electronic and Photonic Systems (CEPS), led by UCL
  • Cybersecurity, led by UCL
  • Geometry and Number Theory at the Interface: London School of Geometry and Number Theory, led by UCL
  • Delivering Quantum Technologies, led by UCL
  • Bioprocess Engineering Leadership (Complex Biological Products Manufacture), led by UCL
  • EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent, Integrated Imaging In Healthcare (i4health), led by UCL
  • EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy Resilience and the Built Environment, led by UCL
  • Future Propulsion and Power, led by Cambridge
  • Integrated Functional Nano (i4Nano), led by Cambridge
  • Automated Chemical Synthesis Enabled by Digital Molecular Technologies, led by Cambridge
  • Sensor Technologies for a Healthy and Sustainable Future, led by Cambridge
  • Future Infrastructure and Built Environment: Resilience in a Changing World (FIBE2), led by Cambridge
  • Autonomous Intelligent Machines and Systems, led by Oxford
  • Health Data Science, led by Oxford
  • Mathematics of Random Systems: Analysis, Modelling and Simulation, led by Oxford
  • Sustainable Approaches to Biomedical Science: Responsible and Reproducible Research – SABS:R^3, led by Oxford
  • Inorganic Chemistry for Future Manufacturing (OxICFM), led by Oxford

For further information and a full list of the 75 funded CDT’s, please see the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council press release.