A TRIO of top European research institutes have joined forces to train the scientists and experts needed to tackle the challenges of an ageing population.
A €6.5 million grant from the European Union will enable dozens of researchers to be trained to doctoral level in specialist fields related to physical mobility, exercise and ageing.
In the UK, the number of people aged 65 years and over is expected to rise by 60% to over 15.8 million by 2031.
The EU grant was awarded to MMU’s Institute for Biomedical Research into Human Movement and Health, the research institute MOVE at the VU University, Amsterdam and the Biomedical Science Group in the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium.
The trio will structure their PhD training in a joint doctorate program called MOVE-AGE.
"The aim is to produce the people who will be the innovators in the field and help our societies maintain mobility in the ageing European population," explains Professor Bill Baltzopoulos at the IRM.
"Exercise and physical activity are of paramount importance for the prevention of mobility loss with ageing and other age-related disorders, whether it is cardiovascular disorders such as stroke and ischemic heart disease, musculoskeletal disorders, such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, or metabolic disorders, such as type II diabetes."
MOVE-AGE will train a total of 50 PhD students over seven years for academia or industry.
To facilitate employment openings in industry, private sector partners will contribute to the programme. Among them are SMEs such as Motek Medical bv, Smith & Nephew European Centre for Knee Research, EMGO Institute for Health Care Research in Amsterdam and Manchester-based MIMIT™, a firm which specializes in innovation in medical and health technology.
To increase European researcher mobility, each PhD student will have to study for a doctoral degree in a country other than the one where they completed their Masters degree and will be supervised by researchers from at least two of the three participating institutes.
This new PhD programme also complements the newly developed undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses at MMU’s School of Healthcare Science in these areas, including the BSc (Hons) Physiology (Physical Activity & Health) and MSc Human Movement Science in Health and Disease.
Linda Tersteeg, a graduate from VU in Amsterdam, who came to MMU in 2007 to read for her PhD, says:
"When I was finishing my Masters my supervisors recommended a research position at the IRM. The project sounded very interesting and I had a good feeling about my supervisory team so I was very happy to come to England.
"The new laboratories here are a very nice space and the supervision and knowledge in the institute is good. The IRM is very multi disciplinary and all that knowledge from different areas is very interesting.
"There’s a great research culture here, you can share stories with other PhD students and learn not only from you own supervisory team but also from post-docs."
This is the only Erasmus Mundus Doctoral network in the broad area of mobility, exercise and ageing so far (http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/erasmus_mundus/results_compendia/selected_projects_action_1_joint_doctorates_en.php) and it was one of nine only programmes funded this year out of 149 proposals submitted.
The proposal, by Professor Baltzopoulos, Professor Jaap van Dieen from the VU University in Amsterdam and Professor Sabine Verschueren from KU Leuven, builds on existing links between the three Institutes including a number of twinning PhD projects that have already led to six double doctorates, a large number of joint publications in high impact journals, Erasmus MSc student exchange programs and joint participation in current and previous EU funded research and training programs based at MMU such as MYO-AGE (FP7) and Better Ageing (FP5).
Further details can be found in the EACEA website above and the MOVE-AGE dedicated website (www.move-age.eu) later this year.