EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Integrated Catalysis

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

The EPSRC CDT in Integrated Catalysis (iCAT) will train students in process-engineering, chemical catalysis, and biological catalysis, connecting these disciplines in a way that will transform the way molecules are made.
Traditionally, PhD students are trained in either chemocatalysis (using chemical catalysts such as metal salts) or biocatalysis (using enzymes), but very rarely both, a situation that is no longer tenable given the demands of industry to rapidly produce new products based on chemical synthesis. Graduate engineers and scientists entering the chemical industry now need to have the skills and agility to work across a far broader base of catalysis - iCAT will meet this challenge by training the next generation of interdisciplinary scientists and engineers who are comfortable working in both bio and chemo catalysis regimes, and can exploit their synergies for the discovery and production of molecules essential to society.

iCAT features world-leading chemistry and engineering groups advancing the state-of-the-art in bio and chemo catalysis, with an outstanding track record in PhD training. The CDT will be managed by a strong and experienced team with guidance from a distinguished membership of an International Advisory Group. The rich portfolio of interdisciplinary CDT projects will feature blue-sky research blended in with more problem-solving studies across scientific themes such as supramolecular-assisted catalysis using molecular machines, directed evolution and biosynthetic engineering for synthesis, and process integration of chemo and bio-catalysis for sustainable synthesis.

The iCAT training structure has been co-developed with industry end-users to create a state-of-the-art training centre at the University of Manchester, equipping PhD students with the skills and industrial experience needed to develop new catalytic processes that meet the stringent standards of a future sustainable chemicals industry in the UK. This chemical industry is world-class and a crucial industrial sector for the UK, providing significant numbers of jobs and creating wealth (currently contributing £15 billion of added value each year to our economy). The industry relies first and foremost on skilled researchers with the ability to design and build, using catalysis, molecules with well-defined properties to produce the drugs, agrochemicals, polymers, speciality chemicals of the future. iCAT will deliver this new breed of scientist / engineer that the UK requires, involving industry in the design and provision of training, and dovetailing with other EPSRC-, University-, and Industry-led initiatives in the research landscape.

Planned Impact

iCAT will work with industry partners to create an holistic approach to the training of students in biocatalysis, chemocatalysis, and their process integration. Traditional graduate training typically focuses on one aspect of catalysis and this approach can severely restrict innovation and impact. Advances in technology and fundamental reaction discovery are rendering this silo-approach obsolete, and a new training modality is needed to produce the next generation of chemists and engineers who can operate across a far broader chemical continuum. iCAT will meet this challenge with a state-of-the-art CDT, equipping the next generation of scientists and engineers with the skills needed to develop future catalytic processes and create the functional molecules of tomorrow.

The UK has one of the world's top-performing chemical industries, achieving outstanding levels of growth, exports, productivity and international investment. The UK's chemical industry is a significant provider of jobs and creator of wealth, with a turnover in excess of £50 billion and a contribution of over £15 Billion of value to the UK economy [2015 figures]. iCAT will deliver highly skilled people to lead this industry across its various sectors, achieving impact through the following actions:

1. Equip the next generation of science and engineering leaders with the interdisciplinary skills and knowledge needed to work across the bio and chemo catalytic remit and build the functional molecules we need to structure society.

2. Provide a highly skilled workforce and research base, skilled in the latest methodologies, strategies and techniques of catalysis and engineering that is crucial for the UK's Chemical Industry.

3. Build the critical mass necessary to support effective cohort-based training in a world-class research environment.

4. Develop and disseminate new catalytic technologies and processes that will be taken up by industrial and academic teams around the world.

5. Encourage Indust to promote research challenges within the CDT that are of core relevance to their business.

6. Provide cohesion in the integration of biocatalysis, engineering and chemocatalysis to create a more unified voice for strategic dialogue with industry, funders and policy makers, and more generally outreach and public engagement.

7. Draw-in and bring together Industrial partners to facilitate future Industrial collaborations.

8. Benefit Industrial scientists through interactions with the CDT (e.g. training and supervisory experience, exposure to cutting-edge synthesis and catalysis etc).

9. Link with other activities in the landscape: bringing unique expertise in catalysis to, for example, externally-funded University-led initiatives, EPRSC Grand Challenge Networks, and the National Catalysis Hub.

Publications

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