University of Southampton DTP Mobility Pilot 2020 2023

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Sch of Engineering

Abstract

The Defence and Security (D&S) sector plays a vital role in the UK economy accounting for £14 billion in exports in 2018. In an era of fast-paced technological advancement, this sector constantly strives not only to evolve to understand better the use and impact of alternative technology, but also to source and retain a highly skilled UK-based research workforce against competitive offers from other commercial sectors. The University of Southampton (UoS) ranks within the top eight Universities for EPSRC funding, in receipt of £190m, 3.5% of the total EPSRC budget and an EPSRC Strategic Framework Partners. In REF2014 97% of our research was judged as world-leading or internationally excellent, 90% of our research impact was rated world-leading. We currently train over 3,000 doctoral researchers, half of them within EPSRC's remit. Despite this strength, only a handful of existing students can be identified as being employed directly within industry while undertaking their doctorates. Coupled with the need to benefit from technological innovation arising from civilian research, UoS has been approached by D&S sector partners such as Dstl and Boeing with the desire for their personnel to be upskilled in order to understand, analyse and rapidly implement alternative technology platforms directly. These partners recognise UoS as leading in 4G and 5G technology, cybersecurity, state of the art encryption software and hardware technology, as well as engineering solutions such as control systems for drones and remote submarine systems that are of direct relevance to them. Drawing on its wide-ranging doctoral training capacity and unique needs of partner engagement, the UoS is proposing to pilot a novel flexible modular doctoral training approach to reach the pool of future skilled research leaders from: existing Defence and Security staff; those looking to transition from serving military to civilian roles; those in active policing; returners from career breaks to hi-te D&S related work. The modular approach would seek to overcome existing barriers arising from budgetary, project, deployment commitments or other constraints (such as caring commitments). Candidates would undertake three (or four for iPhD) modules of cutting-edge research and training fitted around such constraints, in full or part-time mode, to afford maximum flexibility to access talent from a more diverse pool. Distinctively, the modules would allow the successive accumulation of credits for potential exit qualifications, culminating in the award of a doctorate by thesis and viva. In addition to widening the pipeline and diversity of potential highly skilled personnel, the modular approach is designed for its potential to deliver research solutions for partners on a shorter timescale than conventional doctorates. Projects would be crafted with an Industrial Liaison Officer working with partners, supervisors and candidates to ensure research projects are novel, original and challenging, whilst achievable within appropriate timescales. For candidates transitioning between careers or aiming to return to the D&S workforce we would engage with partners to offer placements and mentoring. Academic needs analyses would identify an individualised disciplinary training programme, drawing on our extensive doctoral and masters programmes within and beyond EPSRC remit. This will be co-delivered alongside UoS generic skills training and specialised training from the project partners, in a symbiotic training approach. Although designed with the needs of the D&S sector in mind, following a successful pilot, this flexible model could then be scaled up and rolled out more widely to help to address other needs elsewhere across UKRI portfolios, to contribute to increasing UK investment in research and innovation towards 2.4% of GDP, whilst widening the UK pipeline of people working at the forefront of research and innovation.

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