The OXYTRAIN Training Program will support PhD education for 12 ESRs within the dynamic environment of seven top-level universities and eight industrial partners. Each ESR will be enrolled in a Doctoral Programme for 36 months. In cases where doctoral programmes (e.g. DFS, RUG and UOY) extend over a period of 48 months, own funding has been secured to cover the remaining 12 months.
The approach and objectives of the OXYTRAIN training programme were designed to address the following main concerns:
- There is a lack of researchers with cross-disciplinary skills at the interface of (bio)chemistry, molecular biology and biotechnology capable of developing novel methodology for the exploitation of oxygenating enzymes which would enable the development of new biotechnological processes, for example for industrial applications in textile dyeing, (ligno) cellulose conversion and chemical and pharmaceutical synthesis;
- There is a lack of researchers who can combine cutting-edge research training and commercial vision for practical implementation of oxidative enzymes in industrial applications;
- There is a shortage of joint projects between academic institutions and European Industry;
- Companies have become repositories of key knowledge required for the training of the future scientists, but the dissemination of this knowledge is limited. Similarly, much academic research does not reach relevant industrial research and development activities.
The overarching research goal of the OXYTRAIN network is to boost the development and exploitation of oxygenating enzymes in industrial applications. In order to achieve this main goal, well-trained researchers from different backgrounds are indispensable, as are new tools and approaches for the generation of industrially applicable enzymes. In this context, the OXYTRAIN consortium has identified the ITN programme as a suitable vehicle for providing an innovative research and training programme for early-stage researchers (ESRs). Efficient pan-european training will be achieved by setting up a network and intersectoral programme in which multiple disciplines will be integrated and exploited, providing elements from highly required explorative advanced enzymology to the novel technical issues that emerge from using oxygenases in industrial settings. The network will link knowledge in the field of biocatalysis with capacities in (bio)chemistry, enzyme engineering and in biotechnological “end-user oriented” skills. Integration of these fields of expertise is essential to progress in efficient development of novel biotechnological processes.
The overall OXYTRAIN training concept is to build a scientific technology development program comprising multi-disciplinary and intersectoral crossovers, combined with complementary scientific educational activities. Therefore, we have defined the following specific training objectives (TO) for OXYTRAIN:
TO1: To enhance the attractiveness of a career in front-line academic and industrial research by delivering a structured training program taught by leading scientists with state-of-the art infrastructure and covering a portfolio of inter-disciplinary approaches, fundamental for understanding and developing a major class of high-potential biocatalysts that are experimentally and scientifically challenging.
TO2: To provide academic and private-sector employers with researchers skilled in a wide range of techniques (e.g. diversity generation – OmniChange and SSB technology) and methods (e.g. whole cell biotransformation), and direct experience of interaction across disciplines and sectors.
TO3: To produce researchers with excellent transferable skills and able to transform abstract and challenging ideas into influential and practical outcomes for the successful application of oxygenases in textiles, biorefineries and pharmaceuticals.
TO4: To create an active, long-term network of young researchers whose personal contacts, support and expertise will help Europe to shape the future of oxidative enzymes in industrial applications.
TO5: To cascade expertise and spread good practice throughout Europe by personnel exchange, and delivering European researchers able to become leaders in the field of applied biocatalysis in the near and mid-term future.
The OXYTRAIN Training Program consists of the following main training elements:
1) Training through research (WP1-4): To create a platform of mobility and training of researchers by means of tailored individual research projects including secondments within the Network (between beneficiaries and/or partner organisations), providing exchange of knowhow among researchers and partners.
2) Scientific courses and training (WP5): To enhance the attractiveness of a career in front-line areas of biochemistry, enzyme engineering for biocatalysis and biotechnology, we provide a structured training program encompassing 4 scientific courses, which covers a portfolio of inter-disciplinary techniques relevant for the OXYTRAIN project and the training of fellows. Additionally, each ESR will attend specific courses relevant for his/her research within the local hosts. ESRs will also receive scientific training through attending and contributing to workshops, international conferences, seminars, etc.
3) Transferable skills training (WP5): 3 special courses will be organised to provide the ESRs with training in project management, entrepreneurship, innovation, IPR, scientific writing and integrity, etc. Besides, each ESR will attend special courses within each university covering specific themes: publishing in English, presentation skills, writing a grant proposal, science to market, and science communication. Several activities will provide ESRs with career development skills, including the development and discussion of a Career Development Plan. The ESRs’ engagement in key management roles will provide management experience appropriate for a future group leader. In year 4 of the Network, ESRs will organise an international scientific conference (“Mechanistic and applied aspects of oxygenases”) in close collaboration with their supervisors, providing them with key training on organisation and management skills.
Training through research
The ESRs will receive day-to-day specialised research training both at academic and non-academic partners. The aim of the research training is to provide skills and deep insight in mechanistic studies on oxygenase and knowledge-based oxygenase engineering topics at the highest scientific level. Each research group involved is at the forefront of their respective research area. OXYTRAIN partners collectively cover a vast range of disciplines (molecular biology, biochemistry, enzyme engineering, analytical and synthetic chemistry, biocatalysis, and biotechnology) and cutting edge technology will be employed and/or developed by the ESRs. Through the secondments to other laboratories, where they will complement their scientific skills, all ESRs will be trained in inter/multidisciplinary approaches.
As part of their research training, and to cross-sectoral barriers, each ESR will spend time (from 1 to 8 months) at one of the non-academic sites together with their industrial supervisor. During these secondments, the ESR will get in direct contact with the technologies running in an industrial context, and at the same time will have the opportunity to discuss with the company staff about differences and similarities between academic and industrial approaches to develop and use new technology. The major purpose of these secondments is to train the ESRs to consider the needs in the commercial sector based on direct information and knowledge from the companies themselves. ESRs will also be seconded to industrial partners to collaborate on experimental work, e.g. perform evaluation of enzymes in denim dyeing (ESR1) or learn about a metabolic test kit for commercialisation (ESR4).