University of Glasgow wins support for groundbreaking new Centres for Doctoral Training

The University of Glasgow is sharing in the UK’s biggest-ever investment in engineering and physical sciences doctoral skills.

Researchers from the University will play key roles in five new Centres for Doctoral Training announced today (Tuesday 12 March) by Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan.

The CDTs will be supported by more than £1bn in funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), universities and business partners.

The CDTs linked to the University are among a total of 65 which will be established at universities across the UK. They will train more than 4000 new doctoral students in areas of national importance including the critical technologies of AI, quantum technologies, semiconductors, telecoms and engineering biology.

Researchers from the University will lead one newly-funded CDT, co-direct another with partners at two Scottish universities, and play key roles in three more.

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Diversity-Driven Mission-Led Research ( DiveIn ) unites four leading researchers from three schools at the University as co-directors of a radically inclusive and interdisciplinary new approach to PhD training.

The traditional CDT model supports students from specialised scientific disciplines to work towards careers closely linked to their areas of research.

While this approach has helped the UK maintain its position as a world-leading centre of excellence for higher education and collaboration with industry, CDT cohorts have often fallen short of ambitions to broaden access to PhD recruitment and training for people from more diverse backgrounds.

DiveIn aims to take a different approach, welcoming students from a broader range of ethnic, socioeconomic and LGBTQ+ backgrounds and offering them the chance to develop an interdisciplinary approach to research with multiple supervisors, each with different specialisations.

DiveIn’s approach is supported by three central ’pillars’ - Connect, Belong and Thrive - that aim to provide students with a transformative training experience and emphasise the importance of attracting talent, nurturing students and sustaining impact. Students will be supported with networking opportunities and tailored coaching to help them navigate challenges and seize new opportunities during their time at the University.

DiveIn’s programme is closely aligned with UKRI’s ongoing efforts to promote diversity and the benefits of interdisciplinary research. It will also focus on key UKRI research priority areas like Beyond Net Zero, Artificial Intelligence and big data, Technology touching life, Quantum Technologies and Future Telecoms.

DiveIn has won the backing of a wide range of industry partners who will provide input and offer research and placement opportunities for DiveIn students.

Professor Caroline Müllenbroich, of the School of Physics & Astronomy and DiveIn’s formal principal investigator, will share equal leadership with Professor Ross Forgan of the School of Chemistry, and the James Watt School of Engineering’s Professor Caroline Gauchotte-Lindsay and Professor Qammer Abbasi.

Professor Müllenbroich said: "Study after study has shown that increasing the diversity of researchers leads to greater innovation, but progress on welcoming promising talent from the widest possible range of backgrounds has been frustratingly slow across the higher education sector as a whole.

"In order to move forward most effectively, we need to break down the walls which have prevented the broadest possible involvement in doctoral training. It’s vital that we help promising researchers overcome systemic barriers so they can reach their full potential and play their part in shaping the future of UK research.

"We are excited by DiveIn’s potential to make the University of Glasgow’s research base even more diverse, and we are looking forward to welcoming our first cohort of researchers to our campus in 2025. Ultimately, we hope that DiveIn can help provide a model for a new approach to doctoral training which can be adopted across the higher education sector in the future."

The research leads of the DiveIn CDT (l-r) Prof Caroline Müllenbroich, Prof Ross Forgan, Prof Caroline Gauchotte-Lindsay and Prof Qammer Abbasi The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Algebra, Geometry and Quantum Fields (AGQ) , brings together researchers in fundamental mathematics and physics from the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University.

They will lead the UK’s first CDT to offer specific training in algebra, geometry, topology and mathematical physics. The CDT aims to create graduates with expertise in these areas who will have a wealth of skills to help drive innovation in science and technology through the application of mathematics.

The increasingly interdependent interactions between algebra, geometry and quantum fields are at the forefront of mathematics research, helping to predict key properties of the quantum systems that will underpin developments in cutting-edge technologies. At the same time, quantum field theory can help provide new insights into solving problems in pure mathematics. Many recent developments in internet search, quantum computing, machine learning and cryptography have been made possible through multidisciplinary research in these areas.

A recent report produced for EPSRC by Deloitte highlighted that 2.8 million UK jobs and £200 billion of economic output depend on research in mathematical sciences in industries including computing, aerospace, financial services, fintech and quantum technologies.

AGQ’s leaders have worked closely with partners in the private, public and third sectors to ensure the training provided will help meet their needs by providing graduates who are job-ready. In return, partners have pledged their support to create placements and project opportunities for students during their time at the CDT to enrich their experience and deepen their learning.

The new CDT will also work to increase the diversity and inclusion of mathematical sciences by specifically targeting applicants from under-represented groups.

Professor Tara Brendle, of the University of Glasgow’s School of Mathematics & Statistics, is one of the co-directors of the CDT. She said: "At the heart of AGQ is a drive to shorten two key timescales that will help drive innovation in the science and technology sectors. The first is the delay between abstraction and application - the translation of mathematical theories into practical tools that can be used for real-world benefit. The second is how long it can take for newly-minted PhDs to become leaders in their chosen field.

"This CDT aims to deliver graduates from diverse backgrounds who are fluent in the rapid transformation of mathematics as previously distinct fields become more and more unified, and can be of immediate value across a wide range of employment once they complete their studies.

"I’m pleased to be working with colleagues at the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University to shape the next generation of leaders in this field. Scotland is home to a wealth of expertise in algebra, geometry and quantum fields, making it the ideal place to base this ambitious new CDT."

Glasgow researchers are also lending their support to three more new CDTs.

Professor David Flynn, of the James Watt School of Engineering, is leading the University’s contribution to the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics and AI for Net Zero , a new CDT led by the University of Manchester.

Professor Sonja Franke-Arnold, of the School of Physics & Astronomy, will lead the University’s role in the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Applied Quantum Technologies led by the University of Strathclyde.

Professor Martin Lavery, of the James Watt School of Engineering, will support the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Use-Inspired Photonic Sensing and Metrology at Heriot-Watt University.

Professor Charlotte Deane, Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, said: "The Centres for Doctoral Training announced today will help to prepare the next generation of researchers, specialists and industry experts across a wide range of sectors and industries.

"Spanning locations across the UK and a wide range of disciplines, the new centres are a vivid illustration of the UK’s depth of expertise and potential, which will help us to tackle large-scale, complex challenges and benefit society and the economy.

"The high calibre of both the new centres and applicants is a testament to the abundance of research excellence across the UK, and EPSRC’s role as part of UKRI is to invest in this excellence to advance knowledge and deliver a sustainable, resilient and prosperous nation."

Science and Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan, said: "As innovators across the world break new ground faster than ever, it is vital that government, business and academia invests in ambitious UK talent, giving them the tools to pioneer new discoveries that benefit all’our lives while creating new jobs and growing the economy.

"By targeting critical technologies including artificial intelligence and future telecoms, we are supporting world class universities across the UK to build the skills base we need to unleash the potential of future tech and maintain our country’s reputation as a hub of cutting-edge research and development."

Total investment in the CDTs includes:

o £479 million by EPSRC, this funding includes £16 million of additional UKRI funding to support CDTs in quantum technologies.
o Over £7 million from Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, also part of UKRI, to co-fund three CDTs o £16 million by the MOD to support two CDTs o £169 million by UK universities o plus a further £420 million in financial and in-kind support from business partners This investment includes an additional £135 million for CDTs which will start in 2025. More than 1,400 companies, higher education institutions, charities and civic organisations are taking part in the centres for doctoral training.

In addition to the newly-funded CDTs, the University of Glasgow already has a well-established set of ongoing Centres for Doctoral Training in areas including the science of the natural environment, ultrasonic engineering and global health and infectious diseases.