Cranfield University has won over £25 million to establish two new Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) focusing on advancing water security and net zero aviation. Over 120 students will develop high-level skills and technologies through the centres, which will be closely linked to industry. Cranfield is also part of a third new centre, led by Loughborough University, focusing on advancing hydrogen technologies.

The funding forms part of the UK’s biggest-ever investment in engineering and physical sciences doctoral skills, totalling more than £1 billion and creating 65 new Centres for Doctoral Training, and was announced today by Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology.

Cranfield’s funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will support leading research in areas of national importance including water systems, net zero aviation and hydrogen.

Professor Leon A. Terry, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at Cranfield University, welcomed the investment: “This is a really positive addition to the dynamic and applied research environment that we have at Cranfield.

“With our long-standing experience of working closely with industry on collaborative research, the new doctoral students are set to gain real-world experience and work with some of the UK’s leading experts in their fields.”

Developing resilient and sustainable water systems

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Water Infrastructure and Resilience II (WIRe II) is led by Peter Jarvis , Professor of Water Science and Technology in Cranfield’s Water Science Institute and receives £8.1 million funding from EPSRC, with additional funding committed from partners.

It will equip 60 students with the skills and drive needed to help create a more water-secure world. WIRe II is a collaboration with Sheffield and Newcastle Universities giving students access to world-leading experimental water facilities. It also brings in partners from UK water companies, the UK Water Industry Research Group and the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC).

Professor Jarvis commented: “Our centre will deliver transformational and world-leading research to safeguard civic water quality, alleviate the effects of climate change on our water systems, and advance sector carbon-neutrality ambitions.

“Students will undertake an enriching training programme to ensure graduates have the capacity to drive change in the sector and have a deep appreciation for the complexity and interconnectivity of people, water and critical civic infrastructure. It’s an incredible opportunity to be part of the positive change the world needs.”

Driving net zero aviation

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Net Zero Aviation is a collaboration with Cardiff and Strathclyde Universities and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, and will be delivered in partnership with industry, training 64 students and driving research into novel, disruptive solutions that will decarbonise aviation. The work of this centre will help deliver the UK’s Jet Zero and the ATI’s Destination Zero strategies and help establish the UK as an international hub for technology, innovation and education for net zero aviation. It is being supported with over £7 million from EPSRC, with further funding from partners.

Panos Laskaridis, Professor of Hybrid Electric Propulsion in the Centre for Propulsion and Thermal Power Engineering , will lead the new centre and said: “Over the next decade innovative solutions are urgently needed to decarbonise aviation. The knowledge, methods and tools developed by this new centre’s graduates will help to develop the technologies needed to drive real change in the aviation industry.

“The graduates will have a keen awareness of global issues and develop long-term thinking going beyond individual disciplines or solutions. It’s this creativity and skill that will help us achieve the net zero goals for aviation.”

The teaching and student experience will combine science, technology and engineering solutions with socio-economic and environmental considerations, examining key areas such as sustainable aviation fuels, electrification, hydrogen, ultra efficient aircraft and propulsion systems, materials, manufacturing, operations and infrastructure. Students will also benefit from the Net Zero Research Airport at Cranfield and other investments in zero emission technologies across the partnership.

Accelerating green hydrogen technologies

Cranfield is also part of a third new centre, led by Loughborough University, the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Engineering Hydrogen Net Zero. This will develop the necessary networking, training and skills to enable rapid growth in hydrogen-related technology. The EnerHy CDT aims to address the challenging aspects of rapid growth in hydrogen production and usage such as cost, supply and waste chain development, scalability, new technologies and social acceptance.

Cranfield academic lead for EnerHy CDT, Professor Upul Wijayantha, interim Director of Energy and Sustainability, said: “We are absolutely delighted to work with Loughborough and Strathclyde Universities in this CDT over the next eight years to provide the hydrogen energy sector with much needed diverse pipeline of talented highly skilled leaders, who will play critical roles in green economic growth in the UK.”

Growing the next generation of researchers and specialists

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.”

Professor Charlotte Deane, Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, said: “The Centres for Doctoral Training announced today will help to prepare the next generation of researchers, specialists and industry experts across a wide range of sectors and industries.

“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.”