SMART surfaces, recyclable plastics and new medicines are among subjects North-East university students will be able to study thanks to a £5.3m cash injection.

Applications are now open for students to start PhDs in September this year within Durham University’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter for Formulation and Industrial Innovation.

The studentships are part of a programme with the universities of Leeds and Edinburgh, alongside 25 industry partners such as GSK, PepsiCo and Procter and Gamble.

The £5.3m funding has been awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council with additional funding from industry partners.

Professor Colin Bain, doctoral training centre director, said: “This is a great opportunity for students who want to expand our understanding of complex materials, but who also want to work on real-life applications.

“The exciting all-round training programme will prepare them for a career in business or academia.

"Our students work closely with industry partners on their research and go on to work in high-skilled jobs across many industrial sectors.”

Soft matter affects almost every aspect of human activity - what we eat, what we wear, the cars we drive, the medicines we take, and what we use to keep clean and healthy.

It also has a role in many industrial processes such as in digital manufacturing, regenerative medicine and personalised product design.

The PhD students will discover how to design, characterise, manufacture and deploy soft materials with applications from foods to detergents, medicines to skin creams, paints to engine oils and textiles to TV screens.

David Moore, research and development lead for skin health at GSK, said: “The education and training of a new cohort of young scientists across all the scientific disciplines that underpin soft matter and interfacial science is critical to providing the industrial scientists of the future for companies, such as GSK, across all technical functions, including R&D and process science.”