Guide to BBSRC PhD Funding

Introduction to BBSRC PhD funding

Step into the world of BBSRC PhD funding, a key component of the UK research ecosystem that propels the advancement of knowledge. To stay competitive, the United Kingdom invests significantly in research council funding. BBSRC, short for Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, is one such body. By channelling funds into research, it equips the UK’s doctoral training with the means to develop a highly skilled workforce through systematic training and professional development.

Each year, the BBSRC provides funding of approximately £45 million to support around 2,000 PhD students. However, it’s important to note that the BBSRC awards this funding to universities and research organisations rather than directly to students. In other words, you, as a prospective student, would benefit indirectly through funding opportunities provided by these institutions. Funded by the Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the BBSRC sustains around 1,600 scientists and 2,000 research students across the UK. By embarking on a PhD journey through this scheme, you will not only receive research training but also enhance your career opportunities.

Understanding BBSRC PhD Funding Scope

A striking feature of BBSRC PhD funding is its concentration on interdisciplinary research training. The training stresses on developing advanced research skills and cultivating an interdisciplinary approach to tackling complex issues. Core bioscience skills such as bioinformatics, statistics, and mathematics are an integral part of the training provided.

BBSRC adapts and evolves with the changing needs of research landscapes. In 2017, the funding allocation saw an increased focus on building partnerships with academic and industrial organisations. The following year, in line with the global thrust towards transformative technologies, the spotlight shifted towards Artificial Intelligence and the Data-Driven Economy. Additionally, BBSRC has also offered interdisciplinary funding in conjunction with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), expanding the domains of life sciences and physical sciences, respectively.

Types of BBSRC studentships available

The BBSRC offers several types of studentships to promote research and innovation. The BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTPs) provide opportunities for PhD training and development. These DTPs offer four-year PhD studentships complete with Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS) placements, giving students a chance to work in a non-academic environment.

Alongside, there are the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) studentships which provide doctoral training in the STEM and interdisciplinary arenas. Successful DTPs and Collaborative Training Partnerships (CTPs) have been allocated NPIF studentships in the past. The iCASE awards foster partnerships of equal stature between universities and external organisations. Lastly, the BBSRC Collaborative Training Partnerships (CTPs) are an investment in joint research training that encompasses the partnership with industry.

A summary of the different types of studentships available is as follows:

Studentship Duration Key Features
BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) 4 years Interdisciplinary training, rotational projects, professional development opportunities, and Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS).
National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) Studentships Varies Focus on STEM and interdisciplinary research. Usually awarded to successful DTPs and Collaborative Training Partnerships (CTPs).
Industrial CASE (iCASE) Studentships 4 years Designed to foster partnerships between universities and external organisations, enabling real-world application of research.
Collaborative Training Partnerships (CTPs) Varies Joint research training that combines academia and industry for innovation and knowledge transfer.

Overview of BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs)

The BBSRC DTP is a system that prioritises training, rotational projects, and development opportunities for the students. Central to the DTP is the Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS), a scheme that requires a three-month full-time placement in a non-academic environment. This placement equips students with transferable skills and broadens their career outlook. It is a step away from the traditional research setting and allows students to understand how their research can be utilised in various sectors.

Furthermore, the DTP scheme provides DTP CASE studentships. These studentships involve a partnership with a non-academic business partner.

This helps to foster relationships between academia and industry, enabling students to work on research that directly impacts the business sector. Through BBSRC’s Doctoral Training Partnerships, the organisation aims to create a holistic PhD experience that balances rigorous academic training with practical professional development.

Overview of BBSRC iCASE Studentships

Industrial CASE (iCASE) Studentships are unique research opportunities that foster partnerships between universities and industrial partners. They offer students the chance to undertake practical applied science projects with a partner organisation. This collaboration enables students to develop innovative tools and techniques that can be applied in an industrial context.

The key to iCASE studentships is their collaborative nature. With non-academic partners, the student gets exposed to real-world problems and learns to develop high-quality research solutions. The integrated understanding gained from these partnerships can provide significant benefits to both the student and the collaborating organisation. This can range from the creation of new technologies to tackling pressing industry challenges.

The difference between the BBSRC DTPs and BBSRC iCASE Studentships can be summarised as follows:

Duration 4 years 4 years
Partnerships With academic institutions and optional industrial partner Must involve an industrial partner
Placement Opportunity Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS) optional At least three months placement with industrial partner
Focus Broad and generalist training across the breadth of BBSRC remit More specific, applied and industrially relevant projects

Overview of BBSRC Collaborative Training Partnerships (CTPs)

BBSRC Collaborative Training Partnerships (CTPs) are doctoral training grants specifically designed to address key research areas crucial for the UK’s bioeconomy. These are largely conducted in an industrial setting, focusing on areas such as sustainable agriculture, advanced bio-manufacturing, and bioenergy.

The CTPs are delivered by regional networks of universities and external partners that have a strong track record in research. The partnerships ensure that students are trained to handle the scientific, technological, and socio-economic challenges faced by the UK’s bioeconomy sector. Keep in mind that the training grant terms are typically set by the respective university or institution.

Eligibility criteria for BBSRC PhD funding

The eligibility criteria for BBSRC funding are largely determined by the UKRI guidelines. Typically, funding eligibility extends to UK, EU, and Irish students, though international students and overseas students might also qualify in some cases.

In terms of academic qualifications, candidates are usually required to have at least a 2.1 or equivalent BSc degree. One key aspect of BBSRC funding is that it permits part-time work alongside research, however, full-time employment is not allowed during the course of the PhD. If you’re an international researcher, do note that you might have to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge as well.

How to apply for BBSRC PhD funding and Deadlines

Start by contacting the research organisations or universities directly for BBSRC-funded studentships. The advertised projects usually come with pre-defined aims and objectives, ensuring that successful candidates are a good match.

Typical application materials may include a personal statement, a covering letter, and references. Remember that application deadlines vary, depending on the DTPs and CTPs, and early preparation is the key.

When applying:

  • Thoroughly read the project description and application requirements before starting your application.
  • Align your personal statement and covering letter with the aims and objectives of the project.
  • Provide strong references that can attest to your academic abilities and suitability for the project.
  • Ensure that your application is free from errors and is well-structured.
  • Start your application early to give yourself ample time to refine and perfect it.

Bear in mind that interviews may be part of the selection process. So, take sufficient time for application preparation, ensuring your application is strong and reflects your passion for the research. You’re not just a prospective student, but a potential future leader in the field!

What to expect during a BBSRC PhD programme

The BBSRC PhD program offers a holistic approach to doctoral training. As doctoral candidates, you have access to numerous professional skills development opportunities, including workshops, outreach events, and guidance on scientific publishing. This may also include several rotation projects with collaborative partners to help you develop a more diverse range of skills.

Your commitment to the program is financially supported by a monthly stipend, paid in advance, to cover living costs. It’s worth noting that the BBSRC understands that personal or medical circumstances might require you to take a leave of absence, which includes maternity leave.

Moreover, any request for extensions to registration and thesis submission dates, as well as any transfers from full-time to part-time, can be discussed with your potential supervisor. These are typically allowed only during the normal registration period, but retrospective requests can be considered in exceptional circumstances. However, keep in mind that there is no additional funding for extensions in the writing up period.

Benefits of BBSRC PhD funding

Embarking on a PhD project with BBSRC funding brings multiple benefits. The fully-funded studentships cover not only your maintenance stipend and fees but also a research training support grant and conference/travel funds. This PhD studentship means you can focus fully on your research without worrying about the financial burden.

The stipend amounts are confirmed annually by the UKRI and are designed to cover your living expenses. You can rest assured that the fee rate includes not only tuition fees but also a wide range of additional training opportunities.

To summarise:

  • Maintenance stipend: Ensures you can focus on your research without worrying about living costs.
  • Fees coverage: Tuition fees are fully paid.
  • Research Training Support Grant: Funding for research-related expenses like lab materials and travel to research sites.
  • Conference/Travel Funds: Financial support for attending domestic and international conferences.
  • Access to high-quality research facilities and resources: Enables top-tier research.
  • Broad network: Connect with leading researchers in the field and fellow PhD students across the country.
  • Professional development opportunities: Workshops, training sessions, and internships for comprehensive training.

Industry placements during BBSRC PhD funding

BBSRC’s Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) uniquely offer four-year PhD studentships that include Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS) placements. These industrial placements not only broaden the training experience of PhD students but also enhance their employability by providing valuable real-world experience.

Placements may involve working on an interdisciplinary project with industry partners such as UCB Pharma or Swansea University. This opportunity to work alongside bioscience research staff provides invaluable industry experience and networking opportunities.

BBSRC PhD funding vs other PhD funding options

The BBSRC PhD funding stands out amongst other PhD funding options for several reasons. Firstly, it is funded by the Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). This support ensures stability and dependability.

Each year, approximately 2,000 PhD students are funded, with an investment of around £45 million. Whether it’s the South West Bioscience, Wales Doctoral Training Partnership, South Coast Biosciences or the James Hutton Institute, the BBSRC supports a wide array of biological science research across the UK, covering tuition fees and providing a comprehensive PhD training experience.

Whether you’re looking at the big picture or the fine details, the benefits of BBSRC PhD funding provide an attractive package that can set you up for a successful career in biosciences.


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