Scots fill life sciences pool

February 2, 2007

The life sciences, hailed by the Scottish Funding Council as one of the "jewels in Scotland's research crown", have received a £77 million boost to help bring together thousands of top-rated researchers in six universities, writes Olga Wojtas.

And Sulsa, the Scottish Universities Life Sciences Association, this week began trawling for nine international superstars to fill new chairs, backed by other new posts.

This is the seventh research pool to be set up in Scotland. The initiative began in 2004 to create the critical mass necessary for world-class research. Sulsa unites existing groupings: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Strathclyde universities have between them about 1,200 principal investigators, 1,600 research assistants and 1,800 PhD students. But the SFC and universities believe pooling will help them remain international leaders in an increasingly expensive field by attracting the best researchers and training the brightest students to follow them.

John Coggins, convener of Sulsa's executive committee and vice-principal for Glasgow University's biomedical and life sciences faculty, said: "We're over the moon, bubbling with excitement at the moment." The five-year funding - £ million from the SFC, the rest from the institutions - will create nine research chairs, nine lecturerships to support them, 24 support posts, and 52 studentships.

Professor Coggins said all the partners would get at least one new chair, but Sulsa would discuss with applicants where would be most suitable. The chairs would be "new blood" rather than existing members of the research teams.

"We want to bring nine people into Scotland - some of them might possibly come from England, but we are going to look internationally," he said. "It would be nice if people could be in post before the research assessment exercise, but we're not going to rush it. We're looking for the right people."

Professor Coggins said the most critical appointment was that of the professor who would be Sulsa's director.

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