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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/L015536/1
Title: EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces
Principal Investigator: Bain, Professor CD
Other Investigators:
Poon, Professor W Murray, Professor B Hutchings, Professor LR
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
AKZO Nobel Ashland Global Holdings Inc. Centre for Process Innovation CPI (UK)
Croda (Group) CSIRO Diamond Light Source
Dupont Teijin Films (UK) Limited Epigem Ltd ESPCI
Georg-August University Goettingen GlaxoSmithKline (Global) Ian Wark Research Institute
Infineum UK Ltd Innovia films ISIS
Laue Langevin Institute Leibniz Inst of Polymer Research Dresden Mars UK Ltd
Michelin Mitsubishi Chemical UK Limited Mondelez UK R and D Ltd
Oxford Advanced Surfaces PA Consulting Group Procter & Gamble
Royal Society of Chemistry Publishing Schlumberger Society of Chemical Industry
Stellenbosch University Synthomer Ltd Technical Fibre Products Ltd
Unilever University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: Durham, University of
Scheme: Centre for Doctoral Training
Starts: 01 April 2014 Ends: 31 March 2023 Value (£): 4,858,139
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biophysics Complex fluids & soft solids
Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Food and Drink Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
23 Oct 2013 EPSRC CDT 2013 Interviews Panel M Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Soft matter and functional interfaces are ubiquitous! Be it manufactured plastic products (polymers), food (colloids), paint and other decorative coatings (thin films and coatings), contact lenses (hydrogels), shampoo and washing powder (complex mixtures of the above) or biomaterials such as proteins and membranes, soft matter and soft matter surfaces and interfaces touch almost every aspect of human activity and underpin processes and products across all industrial sectors - sectors which account for 17.2% of UK GDP and over 1.1M UK employees (BIS R&D scoreboard 2010 providing statistics for the top 1000 UK R&D spending companies).

The importance of the underlying science to UK plc prompted discussions in 2010 with key manufacturing industries in personal care, plastics manufacturing, food manufacturing, functional and performance polymers, coatings and additives sectors which revealed common concerns for the provision of soft matter focussed doctoral training in the UK and drove this community to carry out a detailed "gap analysis" of training provision. The results evidenced a national need for researchers trained with a broad, multidisciplinary experience across all areas of soft matter and functional interfaces (SOFI) science, industry-focussed transferable skills and business awareness alongside a challenging PhD research project.

Our 18 industrial partners, who have a combined global work force of 920,000, annual revenues of nearly £200 billion, and span the full SOFI sector, emphasized the importance of a workforce trained to think across the whole range of SOFI science, and not narrowly in, for example, just polymers or colloids. A multidisciplinary knowledge base is vital to address industrial SOFI R&D challenges which invariably address complex, multicomponent formulations.

We therefore propose the establishment of a CDT in Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces to fill this gap. The CDT will deliver multidisciplinary core science and enterprise-facing training alongside PhD projects from fundamental blue-skies science to industrially-embedded applied research across the full spectrum of SOFI science.

Further evidence of national need comes from a survey of our industrial partners which indicates that these companies have collectively recruited >100 PhD qualified staff over the last 3 years (in a recession) in SOFI-related expertise, and plan to recruit (in the UK) approximately 150 PhD qualified staff members over the next three years. These recruits will enter research, innovation and commercial roles. The annual SOFI CDT cohort of 16 postgraduates could be therefore be recruited 3 times over by our industrial partners alone and this demand is likely to be the tip of a national-need iceberg.

Key Findings
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