Can you help Bangor, Surrey and Edinburgh Universities grow our co-hort of wood scientists and engineers?

12 July 2018

A consortium of three universities led by Bangor University and including Surrey University and Edinburgh Napier University have recently submitted an Expression of Interest to the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of RCUK) to host a Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Timber. The bid proposed the training of 50 PhD level students in the area of Timber Science and Engineering.
 
We are pleased to advise that the initial EOI was successful and we are now in the final stage of application for this funding. This means that we as representatives of the timber industry have beat off competition from many sectors of the UK industries and emerging industries to be included in the final 200 applications (from an original number of nearly 500). This, in its own right, is significant in the fact that timber and wood science and the propensity of the industry to evolve has been shown equal to the emerging technologies of graphene and synthetic biology.
 
This is a great testament to the work done by the industry bodies, companies and academia to raise the profile of the timber industry within the UK and ensure that timber is not seen as ‘that old material’.
 
The proposal was received well and the only critisim was one of the industry and not of the proposal… ‘can the Timber industry absorb 50 post graduate employees over the next 10 years?’ I am sure that, with your help we can answer this with a resounding YES.
 
This is a unique once in a life time opportunity for the Industry and a opportunity to inject much needed new knowledge and understanding into the industry.
 
However now is the time for the industry to rally around and support academia, of course the EPSRC will not fund this 100% and industry support is required. There are several types of support the team needs;
 
1. Initially, thoughts and ideas on the development of the proposal.
2. Input in to the development of research themes
3. Finally, and most beneficial to the industry a willingness to support a PhD / EngD student through their studies.
 
EPSRC do not support the project 100% but they do support this at 80% funding. PhD studentships already show good value for money when compared to collaborative research project and when the company only has to pay 1/5 of the cost this becomes a very attractive offer.
 

A brief interview with Dr Grahame Ormondroyd follows:

Which areas of research do you envisage?
 
We have highlighted 5 broad research areas in the EOI, and these essentially cover from the forest gate through products and processes to end of life, these are outlined in the attached document (sorry I had forgotten had you had not seen this)

Where would these PhD students contribute to the development of the industry or its products?

Again this will depend on what type of Phd / EngD is decided upon by the company but in very general terms
 
PhD – fundamental science that will benefit the company and society
CASE Award – Specific science to address a company need (Based at a university)
EngD – A specific project but with the student embedded within the company (based at the company)
 
Which companies / types of companies would benefit most from the skill base of these new scientists? E.g. how applied will their focus be and how theoretical? Are these primarily great employees for R&D labs and of which kind? Or would you see them as highly trained future managers with an enhanced understanding of scientific matters where the main benefit will be brought to the industry throughout the period of their PhD project?
 
I guess see above, I would generally see that the majority of the work will be in the area of CASE and EngD. And therefore answering specific questions for the industrial partner.
I would hope that the majority of students would make good impressions with the companies that they are working with to potentially move in to highly skilled technical roles within the company
 
How long are PhD projects – 3-year terms, 5-year terms? How much influence would a company or organisation have on the direction of the PhD research? How much does a PhD student cost per year?
The PhD’s and EngDs are 4 years, and the sponsoring companies will define the research agenda for the students, of course there will be caveats that the research question is of a standard that it will warrant PhD study, but the interaction with the sponsoring company will be vital to the success of the PhD
 
What would the programme deliver that goes beyond the current programmes at CSIC, Napier, Cambridge etc.?
For the company the scheme will deliver a focused study that will aid in their growth, but the main USP of the scheme is twofold, firstly it has been developed for the industry by academics that understand the industry, secondly the support and the skills training that the students will get will be second to none and will develop doctoral candidates that are well rounded confident and well networked to enter the industry.
 
Can you imagine having an injection 50 highly skilled, highly trained in both science and business skills that are all networked together through the future timber cohort?

You can see the presentation that Dr Grahame Ormondroyd did at BWF Members Day on timber development, touching upon this course here.

If you are interested in getting involved, possibly sponsoring a PhD and driving some of your own innovation through this channel - contact iain.mcilwee@bwf.org.uk

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