SEPnet’s Doctoral Training Network for Small to Medium Size Enterprises

Funding a PhD with a university can be a highly effective way of conducting research & development but the cost of research for knowledge-based SMEs can be prohibitive. By building an SME Doctoral Training Network (SME-DTN) we are creating a critical mass of research to support both regional industries and national science priorities.

We recruit PhD students from diverse backgrounds to carry out industry-relevant research in areas such as:
• condensed matter physics
• numerical modelling
• gaming
• AI
• data science
• quantum technologies
• medical imaging
• photonic materials & devices
• sensors.

Companies will share costs of each PhD studentship with a SEPnet university partner and work with academics to shape projects in line with each company’s business strategy. The first PhD students will be recruited in October 2021.

Do you have an industry-relevant research project? We want to hear from you! To discuss your project, email:

Testimonials from students, employers and academics:

Data Analytics for Optimising Athlete Performance: collaborative project between Body Rocket and the University of Kent

Eric De Golier, CEO, Body Rocket:  As with many cutting edge IoT products Body Rocket found itself in a position of having an immediate product for early adopters but a longer path to fully maximising the value of our technology with a broader audience. Historically this can be an organic process of trying to get the technology involved in new research wherever possible. By getting involved in the SEPnet SME-DTN programme we’ve been able to form a direct link with the University of Kent to kickstart that process. As our data is new and unique it offers great opportunities for novel research, so it feels like a real win-win for everyone.

Dr Stuart Gibson, Senior Lecturer in Physics and Astronomy, UoA Physics Research Lead, University of Kent:  We are pleased to be working with Body Rocket ltd on a collaborative research project supported by the SEPnet SME-DTN. Their novel technology for measuring a cyclist’s aerodynamic drag is unique and offers clear advantages over other products on the market. Kent’s contribution focuses on the development and application of machine learning algorithms for optimisation of an athlete’s performance. The proposed programme of research exploits our expertise attained through the development of data led solutions to a wide range of problems in the physical sciences.  This multidisciplinary project represents an exciting opportunity to engage with industry and work with our colleagues in the department of Sports Science at the University of Kent.

Quantitative rationale for frequency & tolerance of QA programmes based on clinical impact & patient outcomes for supine and upright radiotherapy:  collaborative project between Leo Cancer Care, National Physical Laboratory and the University of Surrey

Anthony Criscuolo, PhD Researcher, University of Surrey and Leo Cancer Care: Anthony Criscuolo, PhD Researcher, University of Surrey, NPL and Leo Cancer Care:  Undertaking my PhD with Leo Cancer Care, NPL and the University of Surrey has given me an insight of the impact of research in industry. I have been working on Monte Carlo techniques to contribute to the design team at Leo, seeing my research contributing directly to current advancement in Radiotherapy.  By working collaboratively I have had the opportunities to gain experience of both research and business environments, which enables me to work with world leaders across the field.  Being part of SEPnet, allowed me to attend their Winter School this year which gave me both networking skills and knowledge on linking science into business.

Michael Kissick, PhD, Senior Physicist, Leo Cancer Care: The SEPnet SME-DTN collaborative research program is providing us with a perfect opportunity.  As part of our development of upright image guidance and setup accuracy for compact upright radiation therapy treatments, sophisticated Monte-Carlo type computer physics modelling will be used.  These codes include all the fundamental physics and are ideal for radiation science student training and development.  Our company benefits greatly from this time-consuming task being accomplished with a collaboration.  A PhD student is the ideal person for this task due to their advanced training and education.  The physics staff is helping train the PhD candidate with real world physics problems and approaches.  The PhD candidate helps the physics staff at Leo by taking up a complicated time-consuming investigation. 

Professor Giuseppe Schettino, Medical Physics, University of Surrey:  SEPnet is providing a perfect environment to foster a 3-way collaboration between the University of Surrey, a national laboratory (NPL) and industry (Leo Cancer Care) enabling to fast track basic research for clinical application. The additional opportunities offered to the student as part of the SEPnet cohort are also extremely beneficial for career development.

Professor Russell A S Thomas FIPEM,  Principal Research & Clinical Scientist, Science Area Leader of Medical Radiation Science at National Physical Laboratory:  Anthony’s PhD is co-funded by Leo Cancer Care, who he is working with on the development of their new radiotherapy linear accelerator (linac) system, called Ruby, for the treatment of cancer patients in an upright position. Anthony has been working closely with the UK based team and has also visited Leo Cancer Care headquarters in Wisconsin to learn more about the systems and work with their Monte Carlo experts on the development of his Monte Carlo codes to be used in the design and development of Ruby. He has been involved in a measurement campaign at Daresbury laboratories where initial testing of the Ruby system has allowed him to make a range of dosimetric measurements that will enable him to validate his codes. Next steps for the project will be to extend his theoretical models to include additional components of the beam line to support Leo Cancer Care in the process of designing and further refinement of the system.

The development of a portfolio of distributed condition management sensors for wind turbines and carbon storage infrastructure:  collaborative EngD project with 3-Sci and the University of Hertfordshire

Stephanie King, EngD student, University of Hertfordshire and 3-Sci Employee:  I graduated with an MPhys degree from Oxford University in 2004. I have been very lucky to enjoy a varied career over the past 20 years, applying my degree to a wide range of engineering challenges. I am a permanent employee at 3-Sci Ltd and my work inspired me to pursue a doctorate. The University of Hertfordshire’s Professional EngD programme seemed well suited to my situation. The online course enables me to undertake the doctorate on a part time basis, allowing me to continue with my employment alongside my research. Pursuing a doctorate in the field of my industrial work gives me a framework to research a topic of interest at a greater depth. My research is aligned with the technical direction my company wish to take so my research benefits 3-Sci Ltd whilst also giving me a new challenge and route for professional development.

As a mature student, the support from SEPnet has been invaluable to help me navigate my way back into the world of academia. The access to training through SEPnet and my EngD course are helping to refine my technical and professional skills. It feels like a real network of support that I can turn to for advice.

Adrian Bowles, Technical Director, 3-Sci Ltd:  3-Sci Ltd were very happy to be involved as an SME for Stephanie’s EngD under the SEPnet scheme. SEPnet has facilitated Stephanie’s EngD course, enabling her to research a topic of interest which feeds back into products being developed at 3-Sci. 3-Sci are also looking forward to the partnership with the University and a greater interaction with research groups and their facilities.

Dr Gbanaibolou Jombo, Senior Lecturer in Machine Performance and Structural Integrity, University of Hertfordshire:  SEPnet SME-DTN has made it possible for the University of Hertfordshire to work with 3-Sci Ltd in new technology product development. This is a fantastic opportunity to move fundamental research into the sphere of applied research with the university offering its expertise and facilities in machine condition monitoring and structural health monitoring.

For a list of our projects for October 2021-22 see here.

RED (Research England Development) funded.

See here for SEPnet’s successful pilot scheme in Radiation Detection (RADnet).