UCL awarded £15m to train bioscience PhDs

6 October 2014

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)has awarded University College London (UCL) £15m to support thirty PhD studentships annually for the next five years in the areas of agriculture and food security, industrial biotechnology and bioenergy, health and other frontier biosciences.

The grant will account for 12% of all BBSRC-funded PhD studentships across the UK and are a significant increase on the 18 positions previously available each year.

The research aims to enable future discoveries to solve some of the world major challenges, including: producing more food using less water, land, energy and other inputs, whilst reducing waste and environmental impacts; providing renewable energy, materials and industrial chemicals – developed from plants, bacteria, algae and fungi – to reduce dependency on fossil fuels; increasing the ability of individuals to lead healthier lives, reducing pressure on the healthcare system.

The funding will boost UCL’s research partnerships with London-based institutions who will work together with UCL to train the students.

Professor Gabriel Waksman (UCL SLMS and Birkbeck BS) who led the application and is the director of the programme, said: “This funding will provide tremendous impetus for cross-disciplinary interactions not only between Bloomsbury colleges including UCL but also across London. We’re very much looking forward to collaborating with our colleagues from King's College London and also Queen Mary University of London, as well as Birkbeck College, Royal Veterinary College, and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It is a terrific alliance which we intend to continue strengthening.”

Professor Geraint Rees, the new Dean of Life Sciences (UCL SLMS), said: “We’re delighted that BBSRC has recognised the high quality of training given to PhD students at UCL in all aspects of bioscience and biotechnology, and provided us with the opportunity to welcome 150 more students to study with us and our partners.”

“Excellent supervision from our world-leading researchers and access to up to date facilities and interdisciplinary expertise of academic colleagues across UCL and partner institutions will allow us to give the PhD candidates the best possible start to their research careers.”

The announcement comes as part of a larger commitment by BBSRC to invest £125m over five years to support the training and development of 1250 PhD students in world-class bioscience to lead the next industrial revolution to help boost the economy and build on UK strengths this area.

The Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP, Business Secretary, said: “The UK punches far beyond its weight in science and innovation globally, which is a credit to our talented scientists and first-class universities. This new funding will safeguard Britain’s status as a world leader in life sciences and agricultural technology.”

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Executive Director, Innovation and Skills: “Bioscience is having a massive impact on many aspects of our lives. BBSRC is paving the way for an explosion in new economic sectors and bioscience that will change the way we live our lives in the twenty-first century. To achieve this we need to maintain our leading position in global bioscience by ensuring that the next generation of scientists have the best training and skills. This next generation of scientists are our future and we must invest in them now.”


There is still a big barrier to students entering a research career in the UK as this usually starts with a Master's degree, which has no support apart from a Professional Career and Development Loan. This is a commercial loan with interest repayments deferred for a year and two months and only covers 80% of the fees. How are students from modest income background supposed to continue from BSc onto research — especially in an expensive place such as London where just a bus season ticket is three times that in eg Nottingham, and the tube season ticket is four times the London bus ticket?

Harry Wood, Editor MTB Europe (and parent of a son that has just started an MRes Organic Chemistry: Drug Discovery at UCL, and probably a research project on PET imaging markers).


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