Public Release: 

New £8.1m Centre at Queen's to tackle world's data storage needs

Queen's University Belfast

A Queen's University Belfast led collaboration with the University of Glasgow and industry has received £8.1m for a new Centre to tackle some of the challenges created by the increasing quantities of data generated by society today.

The new Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) at Queen's, in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, and under the auspices of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will help address a skills shortage in the photonics industry, and help develop new products and systems to address the expanding data storage needs of today's fast moving digital world.

The science of photonics, which is based around the use of light, is the foundation for many innovations in use today, from vision correction and endoscopy to telecommunications and robotics. It formed the basis for the telecommunications revolution of the late 20th century and created the infrastructure needed for the internet.

The new CDT, known as the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Photonic Integration for Advanced Data Storage, will address the shortage of skilled professionals in this field by educating fifty future scientists and engineers, over the next eight years.

The funding for the Queen's CDT, which has been provided by the University and a range of partners including the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, will enable the doctoral students to collaborate with 12 industry partners in a bid to generate new ideas for research and commercial opportunities that cannot yet be foreseen.

Speaking about the new Centre, its Director, Professor Robert Bowman from Queen's School of Mathematics and Physics, said: "The type of innovation required to deliver the much needed advances in this area necessitates multi-site and multi-disciplinary collaboration and committed industry partners. As a result of the CDT initiative from the EPSRC and the funding from DEL and our industry and academic partners, we are now in a position to give doctoral students a unique environment to drive research and make a significant impact in this area."

Queen's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston, added: "Queen's work in the area of photonics and advanced data storage is globally renowned, and it is a tremendously important sector for Northern Ireland and the UK. I wish to thank Professor Bowman for his leadership on this project, and the EPSRC, the Department for Employment and Learning and our industry partners for having the vision to support this Centre and help secure the sector's future through ensuring a flow of highly skilled graduates and future industry and academic leaders."

Expressing his support for the new Queen's-led Centre, the Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, said: "I have been pleased to help facilitate this Centre for Doctoral Training, led by Queen's and involving significant industry partners, including Seagate Technology. It is a strategically important development for Northern Ireland.

"The Centre will support 50 future scientists and engineers, who will benefit greatly from being part of an exciting and supportive learning experience while developing key skills that are crucial not only for themselves but also for the wider economy."

To date the EPSRC's CDT scheme has seen a total investment of £962 million in 115 Centres across the UK.

EPSRC's Chief Executive, Professor Philip Nelson, said: "I am pleased to welcome this new centre. The area they will be working in is very important, addressing how we manage the ever-increasing quantities of data our society generates."

Seagate, the industry leader in hard disc drives and storage solutions, is one of the industry partners involved. In 2010 they established ANSIN at Queen's, a new advanced materials research and development hub. Mark Re, Chief Technology Officer at Seagate said: "The coming decade sees a huge challenge and opportunities in providing society with the data storage solutions it requires.

"Seagate Technology through our support and involvement believe that this CDT at Queen's is a fantastic mechanism to develop the skilled staff required for this challenge and undertake research that could contribute towards new technology and where new synergies and ideas will emerge through collaboration with other CDT partners."

Students from the new Centre will also spend time working alongside leading researchers at the University of Glasgow, including those in the University's James Watt Nanofabrication Centre, which is recognised as a state-of-the-art facility. Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: "The University of Glasgow is very excited to be involved in this innovative Centre for Doctoral Training. It will build on our world-leading position in nanofabrication and integrated optics research and reflects the University's major investment in this area. We are delighted to be working in partnership with Queen's University Belfast in this cutting edge initiative."


More information on applying to study in the new Centre can be found on and, by contacting Professor Robert Bowman via email at or by following the Centre's Twitter account @CDT_PIADS

Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Senior Communications Officer, Queen's University Belfast. Tel: +44 (0)28 90 97 5384 or email

Notes to editors:

1) Industry Partners in the new Centre for Doctoral Training in Photonic Integration for Advanced Data Storage at Queen's University Belfast are:

    1. Seagate Technology,
    2. IQE plc,
    3. Oclaro Ltd,
    4. CST Global,
    5. JEOL,
    6. FEI Company,
    7. Cirdan Imaging,
    8. Kelvin Nanotechnology,
    9. AHS Ltd.,
    10. Xyratex
    11. Renishaw,
    12. Knowledge Transfer Network.

2) The CDT at Queen's will be led by the Centre for Nanostructured Media in the School of Mathematics & Physics. In 2010 the Centre secured around £9M of support and sponsorship from Seagate Technology to establish the advanced materials hub ANSIN. Since then around £4M of new research engaging some 30 researchers has been undertaken. Building on a number of notable scientific advances in plasmonic nanostructures 2013 saw the establishment of its first spin-out, Causeway Sensors Ltd., who commercialise nanostructures for markets such a protien detection and gas sensing. The last spin out from Physics at Queen's was Andor technology who developed into a photonics global leader based in Belfast.

3) Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

4) EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training

Centres for Doctoral Training are one of the three main ways by which EPSRC provides support for Doctoral Training. The other routes are the Doctoral Training Grant and Industrial Case Studentships. It is anticipated that much of the need for doctoral students in many areas will continue to be met by the DTG and ICASE, which together make up more than 50 per cent of EPSRC's current spend on studentships.

CDT students are funded for four years and the programme includes technical and transferrable skills training as well as a research element. The Centres bring together diverse areas of expertise to train engineers and scientists with the skills, knowledge and confidence to tackle today's evolving issues, and future challenges. They also provide a supportive and exciting environment for students, create new working cultures, build relationships between teams in universities and forge lasting links with industry.

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