March 15, 2024

The UK’s biggest-ever investment in engineering and physical sciences doctoral skills, totalling more than £1 billion nationwide, has been announced by the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology.


The investment includes funding for over 300 fully-funded DPhil (PhD) studentships at Oxford to train a new generation of researchers to address key challenges.

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.

“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.”

Professor Martin Williams, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education, University of Oxford

Oxford will lead four of the EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training and will be a partner in seven other centres, including the new Engineering Biology CDT (EngBioCDT), led by the University of Bristol in partnership with Professor Robert Carlisle at the Department of Engineering Science. This CDT will address the national need for ‘Engineering biologists’ capable of translating synthetic biology approaches into commercial, clinical and industrial practice.

Professor Konstantinos Kamnitsas and Professor Jens Rittscher of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering will help deliver the CDT on Healthcare Data Science, hosted by the Big Data Institute and led by Professor Thomas Nichols. Students 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 Nick Hawes, Director of the Oxford Robotics Institute, will help deliver the new Robotics and Artificial Intelligence for Net Zero (RAINZ) CDT, led by Dr Simon Watson at the University of Manchester, which 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.

The EPSRC funding also covers renewals for three existing CDTs at Oxford, including the CDT in Autonomous Intelligent Machines and Systems (AIMS). Led by Professor Michael Osborne, the AIMS CDT 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.

“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, University of Oxford

Further information about the investment and Oxford CDTs