Council spurs industry focus

July 6, 2001

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is refocusing its funding strategy to help tailor courses to meet the needs of industry more closely.

"Our new masters training packages should help universities provide the kind of training and courses that employers want," said Alasdair Rose, the EPSRC's mathematics programme manager.

The EPSRC also intends to increase its support for courses that cover emerging subjects such as those at the interface between disciplines.

"There are huge amounts of computer-generated data being produced by life scientists and a shortage of people with the skills to analyse them," Dr Rose said.

"The funding packages are flexible. They could provide for the development of modular courses, or for development of distance-learning techniques including e-learning," he said.

Mike Smith, reader at the University of York's mathematics department, said that the EPSRC development money had been "absolutely critical" for the development of the institution's MSc in data analysis, networks and nonlinear dynamics.

This branch of mathematics analyses and attempts to control processes and systems in which several features can vary simultaneously and interact with one another. The idea for the course came from collaborations between York's maths department and industrial partners, including telecoms company Nortel Networks.

"We were both doing research into the control of manufacturing processes," Nortel's Philip Hargrave said. "We then looked to see whether these nonlinear techniques could predict how internet traffic might vary so we could design appropriate networks."

Dr Smith hopes that outside collaborators will send their employees on the course. "If they take people on placements and see these students have the right sorts of skills, we'd encourage that," he said.

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