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Leeds fluid dynamics experts earn share of record £1 billion doctoral training investment


The University of Leeds’ fluid dynamics expertise has been recognised in the UK’s biggest-ever investment into Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), receiving millions of pounds from a new fund.

Leeds’ EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Fluid Dynamics, led by Dr Oliver Harlen, is among 65 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) CDTs that will take a share of £1 billion to lead research into crucial areas such as AI, quantum technologies, semiconductors, telecoms, and engineering biology.

The fund, unveiled by Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Michelle Donelan, is the UK’s largest investment into engineering and physical sciences doctoral skills. Leeds is the only institution receiving funding into fluid dynamics.

With it, the CDT will “apply AI and machine learning to fluid dynamics, with potential applications across net zero, healthcare and improving industrial competitiveness”.

The University will receive over £5 million of EPSRC investment and in-kind support from over 33 industry and other end-user partners. This latest tranche of funding is the third round received by Leeds’ fluid dynamics team.

In total, more than 1,400 companies, charities, higher education institutions and civic organisations are part of the CDT initiative.

Dr Harlen said: “This award recognises the critical importance of fluid dynamics to the UK’s industrial base and its role in tackling many of today’s societal challenges, such as energy and health.

“We believe our CDT will develop the next generations of innovative and impactful graduates, and drive the mathematical and engineering advances needed for the future of fluid dynamics.”

Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “As innovators across the world break new ground faster than ever, it is vital that government, business and academia invests in ambitious UK talent, giving them the tools to pioneer new discoveries that benefit all our lives while creating new jobs and growing the economy.

“By targeting critical technologies including artificial intelligence and future telecoms, we are supporting world class universities across the UK to build the skills base we need to unleash the potential of future tech and maintain our country’s reputation as a hub of cutting-edge research and development.”

An eight-year investment into Leeds

The 4,000 doctoral students supported by the fund will be trained over eight-year terms. Total investment into CDTs includes:

  • £479 million by EPSRC, including £16 million of UKRI funding to support CDTs working in quantum technologies;
  • Over £7 million from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), also part of UKRI, to co-fund three CDTs;
  • £16 million by the Ministry of Defence to support two CDTs;
  • £169 million by UK universities; and
  • £420 million in financial and in-kind support from business partners, public sector and charity partners.

Leeds will be joined by other leading universities across the UK, including King’s College London, which will train researchers in advanced surgical engineering using micro-surgical robots, AI, and digital twins; the University of Nottingham, which will focus on driving down the environmental impact of chemical manufacturing processes; and the University of Bristol, which will target cyber security and the resilience of critical infrastructures.

Professor Charlotte Deane, Executive Chair of the EPSRC, said: “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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