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York researchers receive funding to train scientists and engineers leading the way on fusion energy and net zero goals

Posted on 12 March 2024

Researchers at the University of York will receive funding for three Centres of Doctoral Training (CDTs) from the UK’s biggest-ever investment in engineering and physical sciences doctoral skills.

York researchers will play key roles in three new Centres for Doctoral Training announced by Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan today.

Announced today by Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan, the Centres are part of an investment of more than £1b to create 65 CDTs in the UK.

York will lead a CDT to train the next generation of scientists and engineers in fusion power research and will partner on two other CDTs focused on training future experts in sustainable synthetic chemistry and chemical strategies.

Fusion challenges

Professor Roddy Vann from the York Plasma Institute in the School of Physics, Engineering & Technology will lead the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Fusion Power, working with colleagues at Durham University and the Universities of Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford and Sheffield.

The CDT will work closely with twenty commercial, industrial and national lab partners both in the UK and overseas.

“Fusion uniquely offers a long-term solution to the global need for green energy,” said Professor Vann. “But achieving fusion is technically challenging and a critical barrier to making it a reality is the ever-worsening shortage of people who understand the challenges.”

“The Fusion Power CDT will build on our existing success and international reputation to become the global beacon for training the next generation of fusion leaders. They will solve technical cross-disciplinary challenges, moving fusion forward faster at a rate of 20 scientists and engineers per year. This supply of the best people will energise the global fusion industry and enable international fusion power plant innovation & development.”

Green chemistry

Professor Helen Sneddon, Director of the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at the University of York, will be a co-director at two further centres - the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Process Industries: Net Zero (PINZ CDT) and the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Synthesis for a Healthy Planet (CSHP CDT). 

The CSHP CDT, led by the University of Oxford, will train a generation of sustainability-driven synthetic chemists to address global challenges in human health, food security, and energy and materials.

The PINZ CDT, led by Newcastle University, will look at the efficiency and environmental impact improvements needed within the process industries, focusing on how they manage energy, materials and data.

It will train a unique cohort of process intensification and green chemistry experts, with the skills needed to be the architects of the UK process industries’ net zero transition, shaping and influencing global trends. 

York’s strengths

Students at both centres will receive cutting-edge training in the skills necessary to deliver the chemical industry of the future before embarking on industry co-supervised projects to develop innovative, sustainable chemical strategies solving real-world problems.

Professor Sneddon said: "I'm delighted that we are able to bring York's strengths in green chemistry to these two key partnerships. We see great potential synergies in working with the Process Intensification group at Newcastle, and the Department of Chemistry in Oxford, and are excited to increase our impact through these connections.

“Both centres offer an opportunity for talented researchers to translate fundamental research into real-world applications through our Industry partners, and the multiple cohorts of CDT students will have the opportunity to learn from each other as well as their academic and industry supervisors."

The next generation

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.” 

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