SSPC's unique talent pipeline #lookingbackmovingforward


A key impact of SSPC Phase 1 is the creation of a unique talent pipeline and the transition rate of SSPC researchers to industry currently stands at 70%. One of the key drivers facilitating the high number of transitions to industry is the SSPC structured PhD programme and SSPC student placement programme.


The SSPC Structured PhD programme, encompasses many of the SSPC Education and Public Engagement’s activities for fourth level. This programme includes credited, assessment-based, discipline-specific modules; generic and transferable skills modules including entrepreneurship, IP and commercialisation; as well as industry placements.

One of the key strengths of the SSPC’s industry membership model is that multiple partners are involved in developing and supporting platform and targeted research. The role that industry members play within the SSPC is a multi-faceted one that is successful in both responding current needs of the sector and anticipating the skills and training necessary to mentor future research leaders.

Curriculum development:
Students attend and present their work at SSPC quarterly technical meetings, offering further opportunities for engagement with industry and across disciplines within SSPC. During the first semester of their PhD programme, students consult with their supervisors or a thesis committee, as appropriate to the institution, to establish expectations for:

•    Organisation of an individualised Research and Professional Development Plan (RPDP), including reflection and documentation of skill developments
•    Module selection and schedule
•    Arrangements and regulations for Stage 1 to Stage 2 transition
•    Presenting at International conferences and SSPC meetings with industry partners
•    Industrial placement
•    Training for Demonstrating duties
•    Attendance at Seminar Series and Summer Schools

The curriculum has been developed to leverage existing modules, and where gaps have been identified, additional bespoke modules have been put in place. Additionally, flagship industry-led modules have been developed and continue to be added to the programme to ensure that all graduates have a keen understanding and appreciation of industrial processes and needs.  Additional modules were developed through the SSPC EPE 2017 strategy that further trained participants in areas of communication, outreach and scientific literacy. As part of the PhD programme, a 2-day course called Masterclass: Process Development and Scale-up in the Pharmaceutical Industry, started running in April 2016.

All SSPC PhD students participate in a number of modules comprising Generic and Transferable Skills, as well as Advanced modules. The modules undertaken are equivalent to approximately 30 ECTS credits; these are equally distributed between generic and advanced modules. The method of module delivery is determined in large part by the institution offering the modules. Delivery of the courses is flexible and utilises a blended- learning approach facilitated by on-line platforms such as Sulis, Moodle and Blackboard. Traditional teaching methodologies are also available within the programme. Students have the option to take intensive modules, with face-to-face lectures, tutorials and laboratory-based sessions over a short period of time (3-5 days), while a more sustained approach is supported through the online tutorials, problem solving sessions and assignments.

Both structures are designed to support the same educational objectives: to enhance communication, planning and awareness of topics related to industrial practice for a PhD graduate within their specific discipline (SSPC Summer School and Generic and Transferable Skills Module). And, to deepen a student’s understanding of the discipline, or to address potential knowledge gaps within a student’s background with advanced modules that directly benefit the student and his or her research topic.