THE next generation of professional researchers could be nurtured in South Lakeland schools after Lancaster University won a £140,000 grant.

Provided by Research Councils UK, the cash will allow staff to work with nine schools and Kendal College to inspire youngsters to consider careers as researchers.

The scheme, part of a nationwide initiative, will focus on giving young people already launching research careers at Lancaster the skills to develop their ability to engage others.

It is hoped the collaboration will highlight a perceived need for continued efforts in research, particularly in vital areas such as cancer and global warming.

Dr Jane Taylor, senior lecturer in plant biochemistry at Lancaster, said: “It is very exciting to have an opportunity to inspire young people of all backgrounds to engage with research and even to pursue a career in the field.”

Alison Wilkinson, deputy head at Queen Elizabeth School, Kirkby Lonsdale, which is taking part, said the project was a ‘fantastic opportunity’ for the school.

“We have seen the impact that research can have on the engagement and aspirations of young people,” she said.

“We are looking forward to working with the university to deepen our understanding of the ways to develop research in our schools.”

Professor Trevor McMillan, the university’s pro-vice chancellor for research, said it was important to entice youngsters into careers.

“From law and justice to the fight against cancer and global warming, the need has never been more urgent for young people to be inspired by research, and to be aware of the importance of research in their everyday lives,” said Prof McMillan.

David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, added: “Maintaining a good supply of scientists and researchers is vital to our economy and society, but to do this we need to draw talent from as wide a pool as possible.”

Taking part in the partnership locally are Queen Elizabeth School, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cartmel Priory School, Dallam School, Milnthorpe, John Ruskin School, Coniston, Kirkbie Kendal School and Queen Katherine School, Kendal, the Lakes School at Troutbeck Bridge, Settlebeck High School, Sedbergh, Sandgate School, Kendal, and Kendal College.

Lancaster University, one of the country’s highest-ranked, said it aimed to engage the public with research through all its activities and regularly runs science and language ‘taster days’.

And it takes part in several science-orientated events throughout the year, including the Big Bang Fair and Science and Engineering Week.