Swansea University’s £14.7m award to build future skills

Swansea University has been awarded major funding for two Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) that will help build knowledge and skills bases needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the UK.

Swansea University reports the £14.7m funding has been awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the main funding body for engineering and physical sciences research in the UK.

The new centres created at Swansea University have been designed with the aim to train the research leaders of the future and equip them with the knowledge, skills and creative approaches the UK needs for economic growth and social wellbeing.

The Enhancing Human Interactions and Collaborations with Data and Intelligence Drive CDT will be led by Professor Matt Jones, head of the College of Science, and will focus on training a highly skilled and highly employable workforce focused on gaining positive, human centred benefits from innovations in data driven and intelligence based systems.

The centre will take a multidisciplinary approach to train up to fifty five computational scientists who will take a “people-first” perspective putting the needs, capabilities and values of people, and wider societal views, at its heart. The centre draws on Swansea University’s world class research teams and facilities in Engineering, the Hillary Rodham School of Law, the Management School, the Schools of Medicine and Human and Health Science and the newly opened £32.5m Computational Foundry. The centre’s cohorts of students will work alongside partners who supported the funding bid including the NHS, GoFore, Tata Steel, Ford, QinetiQ, McAfee, Ordnance Survey, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft Research, Fujitsu and others.

Matt Jones said “You do not need to look far for evidence that highlights widespread and growing concerns around the coming transformations promised by big data and artificial intelligence. There is a darkness descending on and through the digital and our Centre will be a beacon of light, with a fresh and passionate human-centred outlook that will be recognised globally and works to attract diverse groups of PhD researchers, stakeholders and community members to co-create a better future. I’m particularly delighted that this new Centre coincides with the opening of the Computational Foundry – a people and place on the Bay Campus that is integral to the success we celebrate today and that has a mission to build a highly skilled workforce for the region, Wales and the world.”

The Functional Industrial Coatings CDT, led by Professor James Sullivan and Dr David Penney, aims to produce fifty doctoral graduates who will develop the next generation of functional coated products. These could include next generation energy producing coatings, smart release anti-corrosion systems and antimicrobial systems for healthcare. The centre has been co-created with industry and will accelerate the translation of academic research from the laboratory to the factory whilst developing the industry leaders of the future.

James Sullivan said “The CDT will enrich the graduates with additional professional, ethical and communication skills that will enhance their career prospects. Our graduates will actively engage with the wider community to promote coatings and STEM more generally with a view to increasing participation across the population. Coatings are ubiquitous throughout day to day life and ensure the function, durability and aesthetics of millions of products and processes. The use of coatings is essential across multiple sectors including construction, automotive, aerospace, packaging and energy and as such the industry has a considerable value of £2.7 billion annually with over 300,000 people employed throughout manufacturers and supply chains.

“Most coatings surfaces are currently passive and so an opportunity exists to transform these products through the development of functional industrial coatings. For example, the next generation of buildings will use coating technology to embed energy generation, storage and release within the fabric of building. Photocatalytic coated surfaces can be used to clean effluent streams and anti-microbial coatings could revolutionise healthcare infrastructure. This CDT will provide a cohort of 50 Engineering Doctorate research engineers with a holistic knowledge of functional coatings development and manufacture and I am positive that their work will have a significant impact across multiple industrial sectors.”

Professor Steve Wilks, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Swansea University, said “Securing two EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training in such a competitive research environment signals Swansea University’s unprecedented success and is a reflection of our long-standing synergistic collaborations with industry and business. Training the research leaders, scientists and engineers of the future is of vital importance and is central to Swansea’s mission as a research-led and practice-driven university.”

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