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The University of Southampton

Science and Universities Minister announces major funding for SPITFIRE project

Published: 4 November 2013

The Minister for Universities and Science, the Rt Hon David Willets MP, today announced a major investment by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) for a University of Southampton-led project to train the environmental scientists of the future.

The Southampton Partnership for Innovative Training of Future Investigators Researching the Environment (SPITFIRE) was confirmed as one of 15 Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs), which will receive £100 million funding to provide training for environmental science PhD students.

Science and Universities minister David Willetts said: “This significant investment highlights the Government’s commitment to supporting postgraduate training and research in the environmental sciences. We're dedicated to providing the next generation of environmental researchers with the necessary skills and training to succeed in academia and industry.

“The strong support for this programme from a number of international partners such as BP, Microsoft and Arup is enormously encouraging. Not only will this initiative benefit students, UK research organisations, business, industry and the economy, it will keep us at the forefront of the global science race.”

SPITFIRE, led by the University of Southampton together with hosting research organisations: the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS), British Antarctic Survey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Natural History Museum, Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Marine Biological Association, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science and HR Wallingford, will establish an innovative multidisciplinary training environment for the next generation of leaders in the environmental sciences.

The SPITFIRE DTP, building on the Graduate School of NOCS, will draw together the breadth of natural environment research across the University of Southampton and strengthen links with its prestigious research partners.

Professor Don Nutbeam, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton, said “We are delighted to be one of DTPs chosen by NERC and are already looking forward to working with our partners in the delivery of innovative new training experience for our PhD students.”

Professor Norman MacLeod, of the Natural History Museum says: “SPITFIRE will greatly increase joint PhD research between the partner organisations and provide a catalyst for the development of new multidisciplinary science initiatives.”

Professor Damon Teagle, Director of Research for Ocean and Earth Science at the University and one of the architects of SPITFIRE, added: “In designing SPITFIRE, we thought deeply about providing the skills and knowledge that will be essential for the environmental science leaders of the mid-21st Century, be they engaged in research, industry or policy. New technology, such as next generation sequencing, autonomous vehicles and sensors, and the vast data sets they produce are rapidly changing the way that we investigate our planet exposing previously unknown links between different parts of the Earth system.”


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