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The University of Oxford and its partner organisations have been awarded funding that will support the training of over 175 bioscience graduate students as part of £170 million investment in bioscience by the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biosciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation).

A researcher working in a laboratory

The total investment will fund 1,700 PhD researchers over five annual cohorts at academic institutions all over the UK under the third phase of UKRI-BBSRC’s Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP). The Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP’s share will be over £14M, and matched funding by partner organisations and industry will bring the total investment in the Oxford partnership to over £20M.

This represents the third phase of BBSRC funding for Oxford’s Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP programme, an innovative four-year DPhil/PhD programme that aims to equip a new generation of researchers with the skills, insight and knowledge needed to tackle the most important challenges in bioscience research, and develop the world-class, highly skilled workforce the UK needs for its future. Oxford’s Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP was initially funded in 2012 and is part of the University of Oxford’s innovative, interdisciplinary Doctoral Training Centre.

The Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP is led by the University of Oxford, in partnership with eight world-class research organisations. Six of these collaborations, The Pirbright Institute, Oxford Brookes University, Diamond Light Source, ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, STFC Central Laser Facility and the Research Complex at Harwell, continue the successful partnership established in the second phase of DTP funding. For the third phase two new organisations have joined the partnership, the Novo Nordisk Research Centre Oxford (NNRCO), an innovative target discovery and translational research institute which opened in Oxford in 2017; and the Rosalind Franklin Institute, a new national institute based at Harwell dedicated to transforming life science through interdisciplinary research and technology development.

A distinctive strength of the Oxford DTP, both in research and training, is in the development and use of transformative technologies for bioscience research, including mathematical, computational and data skills, and the development and application of innovative technologies in areas such as bioimaging, structural biology and biotechnology. At least 20% of the students joining the programme will undertake projects in collaboration with industrial and non-academic partners. All DTP students will have the opportunity to undertake a 12-week internship in a non-academic setting to develop their professional skills.

The Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP aims to recruit students from the highest quality and widest possible pool of potential candidates, regardless of background, and to provide an environment in which they can flourish and reach their full potential. UKRI-BBSRC funding will not only provide funding to support studentships, but will also provide support for prospective bioscience graduate students to participate in the new UNIQ+ graduate access programme at the University of Oxford. UNIQ+ provides an opportunity for talented individuals who would find continuing into postgraduate study a challenge because of socio-economic or financial circumstances to experience postgraduate study. UNIQ+ was established in 2019 by the Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP, with support from UKRI-BBSRC, in partnership with other graduate programmes and departments across the University of Oxford.

The DTP Director Prof. Gail Preston said: “We are delighted that UKRI-BBSRC has awarded a third phase of funding to the Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP. The outstanding students in the Oxford DTP are already making a substantial impact through ground-breaking research, inspiring public engagement and outreach, and innovative interactions with industry and non-academic organisations. This award will further strengthen and expand collaborative research within our partnership and with industry, and will enable us to support the next generation of scientists in developing the skills, confidence and connections to achieve their full potential.”

Announcing the award, Professor Melanie Welham, UKRI-BBSRC’s Executive Chair said: “The success of the UK’s science sector and the consequent benefits to society and the economy relies on great researchers doing great work. Our Doctoral Training Partnerships have already supported the training of hundreds of early career scientists working at the cutting edge of biology and biotechnology. By continuing to fund, through this significant £170 million investment, vital training of the next generation of researchers we will help ensure that the UK consolidates its position as world-leader in this crucial sector.”

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