Engineering and science in the South West has been given a boost, with the news that the Universities of Bristol, Bath and Exeter are among those sharing a £350 million fund to train the next generation of scientists and engineers.
The centres in the South West are among more than 70 centres to be set up, across 24 universities, which will train 3,500 postgraduate students, with funding allocated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, as well as the Medical Research Council and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
Seven centres for doctoral training (CDTs) will be set up at Bristol, which also has partnerships in four others, across areas of research and industry pivotal to the regional and national economy. Bath is to lead a 70-student partnership with the University of Liverpool researching solar-power technology, as well as securing funding to continue two centres, including its work with the University of Bournemouth on digital entertainment. It will also take part in water research, in a partnership led by the University of Exeter, and catalysis research, in a partnership led by Cardiff University.
Wiltshire-based Dyson, whose owner, Sir James Dyson, has been a fierce champion of homegrown engineering talent, is involved in seven projects dotted around the country, in industry sectors that reflect its business interests.
Sir James said: "To compete internationally Britain needs to export world-beating inventions which are the result of intellectual property developed by our companies and universities. We must support British engineers and scientists at all levels, rewarding them properly for their work. This investment is heartening, but genuine research and development takes time. Continuing robust investment is required if we are to see the breakthroughs which will deliver the growth we require."
Announcing the funding yesterday, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "Scientists and engineers are vital to our economy and society. It is their talent and imagination, as well as their knowledge and skills that inspire innovation and drive growth across a range of sectors, from manufacturing to financial services.
Work at the Bristol centres will focus heavily on materials, building on the universty's leading of the National Composites Centre at the £300 million Bristol and Bath Science Park at Emerson's Green.
Professor Nishan Canagarajah, dean of engineering at Bristol, said: "The large number of CDT awards reflects the excellent research training environment at Bristol and depth of our collaboration with our industrial partners in research and education."
Other universities to secure funding include Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester and York.