The Royal Academy of Engineering is pleased to hear Lord Drayson’s announcement today of a major investment in training PhD students in science and engineering through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s new Centres for Doctoral Training. The focus on working in multidisciplinary research centres and industrial training to boost researchers’ ability to turn their ideas into real commercial prospects is particularly welcome.

The Academy has been highlighting the need for an improved funding focus on PhD researchers since 2003, when it found that most of the UK’s top university engineering departments were already reporting serious problems in persuading the best UK graduates to stay on for doctoral studies. Several departments told the Academy that they recruit well over half their PhD students from overseas, many of whom return home after their studies.

Academy Chief Executive Philip Greenish says:

“The UK leads the world in many areas of modern engineering – satellite design and manufacture, synthetic biology and medical devices, engineering design and project management. The energy industry, particularly the renewables sector, presents massive opportunities for the engineering sector and for UK economic growth. However, none of this can be achieved without a lot more engineers – and despite a 60 per cent growth in participation in higher education over the last ten years, the number of students taking engineering degrees has remained static. Compare this with China, which produces 1.3 million graduate engineers every year – a third of all graduates.

“Doctoral research students are critical, for they provide tomorrow's university lecturers and, for some industries, the innovators. Without new researchers today there will be no new knowledge tomorrow. We welcome this new funding to address the skills shortage but more will be needed if we are to drive the innovation in engineering, science and technology that offers a real prospect of lifting us out of the current recession.”

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0636