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New "Venture Science Doctorate" aims to turbocharge climate-tech, life-sciences startups

A unique new Venture Science Doctorate (VSD) has started taking candidate applications.

The unique doctorate was set up by UK venture creator Deep Science Ventures – which has already generated a portfolio of 35 science-based companies, worth upwards of £250 million – and is explicitly venture-focused.

The three-year doctorate is fully funded and sector-agnostic. The inaugural funding round aims to back researchers tackling problems around climate technology and healthcare in particular -- and help boost the dismally low number of PhD students (~0.5%) who spin-out or license their research findings in the UK.

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It is awarded by Deep Science Ventures College, which describes itself as “an independently accredited, decentralised institution” and which plans to scale up to supporting 1,000 science entrepreneurs per year within a decade.

The programme is aiming for a 50:50 gender balance and 50:50 ethnic minority balance.

The programme is being backed by 20 global partners. Each host institution is committing co-supervisors, labs or infrastructure. These include the Mayo Clinic, NPL, the Royce Institute and the University of Edinburgh. The first cohort launches Autumn 2023 and is already oversubscribed.

The VSD aims to train a “hypermobile, interdisciplinary cohort of ‘venture scientists’ to build companies advancing climate-tech and healthcare” said co-founder Dr Claire Thorne, a former director of Innovation at the University of Surrey, whose own doctorate is in Experimental Astroparticle Physics.

She added: “PhD programmes have neither the ability to truly scale nor the culture to retain science innovators. VSD focuses innovators on a career that matters to them, embracing mobility… while building high-growth science companies.”

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Dr Thorne, who is also co-CEO of non-profit Tech She Can, added: “The companies created will transform strategic sectors, generate genuine impact and retain and nurture highly-skilled talent…”

“We’re redefining what it means to be a scientist.”

A VSD soft-launch in October saw a keynote from UK Science Minister George Freeman, and support from speakers like Schmidt Futures CIO Tom Kalil, and UKRI NED, Priya Guah MBE, with over 500 signups.

The programme will “stimulate accelerated cluster development and systemic culture change, embedded in a coalition of universities and national labs” and amplify the UK’s STEM training and commercialisation capability by creating 100x more spin-outs per PhD cohort than programmes at the UK’s elite universities, she added.

Prospectus download here.

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