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Many new funded PhD studentships will be coming to BIO as part of a £12.5M investment by the BBSRC into the NRP

The quality of research across Norwich Research Park has been given a £12.5M endorsement from the government today with the announcement that it will fund 125 PhD students through the Norwich Research Park Doctoral Training Partnership over the next five years.

This investment further cements Norwich Research Park’s growing reputation as a leading, internationally recognised centre of excellence in bioscience. The new funding significantly builds on a £4M BBSRC investment made in 2012, which supported 39 studentships over three years. 

The application was made by five partners across Norwich Research Park: The John Innes Centre (JIC) who led the bid, The Sainsbury Laboratory, The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC), the Institute of Food Research and the University of East Anglia (UEA). Associate partners are Plant Bioscience Limited, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and The SAW Trust.

In addition to the £12.5M announced, the partners have themselves contributed £3M to the five year programme, increasing the total number of PhD students being trained from 125 up to 156. 

Professor Dale Sanders, Director of the John Innes Centre and lead partner in the bid said: “I am thrilled that the exceptional quality of PhD training on Norwich Research Park has been recognised by an award of this magnitude. JIC has a long track record of training outstanding graduate students in the life sciences, and this award from BBSRC will continue to enhance the graduate environment through synergistic interactions with UEA and our sister research institutes on Norwich Research Park.”

Professor David Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, commented: “This doctoral training programme funding is a huge endorsement of Norwich Research Park and of the quality of PhD students attracted to both UEA and the world-leading institutions across the Park. The award, three times the amount we received in 2012, will allow more than 150 PhD students to benefit from the truly integrated nature of the collaborations across the John Innes Centre, The Sainsbury Laboratory, The Genome Analysis Centre, the Institute of Food Research and UEA.”

Today’s announcement is part of a £125M investment allocated by BBSRC, which funds scientific research to help boost the economy and build on UK strengths in areas such as agriculture, food, industrial biotechnology, bioenergy and health.

Business Secretary Vince Cable 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.”

Tracey Chapman, Professor of Evolutionary Genetics in UEA’s School of Biological Sciences was involved in writing the bid for UEA. She said: "The award of the NRP Doctoral Training Partnership from the BBSRC represents a fantastic opportunity to expand significantly on our existing award in training the next generation of bioscience PhD students. The unique partnership we have across the NRP offers a concentration of world-class excellence in research and training all on one site. I am absolutely delighted that the highly collaborative and synergistic environment that we have here on the NRP has been recognised in the award of this funding.”

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.” 

The Doctoral Training Partnership operates as an inter-institutional, inter-disciplinary collaboration ensuring that institutions and the wider community on Norwich Research Park are combining their strengths to improve the training experience - ultimately delivering better equipped next generation scientists into both research and industry. An essential component of the programme is the requirement for each student to complete a three month professional internship outside of the lab. This ensures there is a close connection between research and industry and that PhD skills and training can be applied.

Dr Sally Ann Forsyth, CEO of Norwich Research Park welcomed the announcement: “This further investment provides a clear signal of Norwich Research Park’s growing reputation as a world leading location for bioscience both from a research perspective but also the application of this across industry. A key decision for businesses in where they locate themselves in these sectors is the access they will have to leading research in their field and importantly, to a skilled work force that is critical in driving commercial success. This investment further boosts both of these credentials and demonstrates to businesses that Norwich is an ideal international location to base themselves.” 

Professor David Boxer, Director of the Institute of Food Research, added: “This is great news for Norwich and Norwich Research Park. The size of this commitment to training the next generation of world class food and health scientists here is testament to the standing of the institutions that make up the Park, and will help realise the ambition to make Norwich one of Europe's leading centres for research into food, health and the environment. Some of these students will be among the first to be trained by the new Centre for Food and Health, which itself is further evidence of the continued investment in Norwich as a centre of excellence in bioscience.”

Dr Mario Caccamo, Director of The Genome Analysis Centre, commented: "We are extremely pleased to see that Norwich Research Park has once again been recognised by the excellence of its science. I am particularly excited about the new opportunities that TGAC will bring to post-graduate candidates interested in working on projects in computational biology, genomics and bioinformatics. These are areas of intensive development in which TGAC has directly contributed to with innovative approaches and cutting-edge research.”

Professor Cyril Zipfel, Head of The Sainsbury Laboratory, said: “I am delighted by this announcement. The increased support from BBSRC will enable us to train the next generation of scientists to continue making major fundamental and applied discoveries to tackle the ever-growing challenge of health and food security.”