Staff Services Student Enterprise

New £8m programme in sensing, processing and AI

12 Mar 2024

A new programme to bring industry and academia together to meet national security challenges has been announced today.

A Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Sensing, Processing, and AI for Defence and Security (SPADS) will be established at the University of Edinburgh, placing doctoral students with defence industry companies for three years to co-design solutions to industry problems.

The CDT, in partnership with Heriot-Watt University, aims to train 80 students over five years through a programme spanning sensing, processing and communications – with applications across software, algorithms and hardware.

It will focus on supplying the UK’s growing need for AI-driven generation-after-next technologies for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations, which has been identified by the Ministry of Defence as a national security priority.

The funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) was unveiled today as part of the UK’s biggest-ever investment in engineering and physical sciences doctoral skills, totalling more than £1 billion, announced by Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan.

Academic lead Professor James Hopgood, of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering, said:

I am delighted we are launching this exciting new research programme, built both on the University’s strong industrial partnerships and unique capabilities in signal processing research, hardware-enabled artificial intelligence and sensing, autonomous systems and mathematics.
This expertise is extremely useful for defence companies focussing on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, particularly situational awareness for the armed forces.
It is a unique opportunity for students who want to pursue a PhD research programme, while benefitting from integrated studies co-designed and co-delivered with our industrial partners.
By working together, we can train the engineers of the future and meet industry challenges.”

SPADS has been co-designed with industry to meet the sector’s priorities – building a long-term talent pipeline to supply in-demand and highly specialised technological and engineering skills.

Ian Hatch, Head of Business Development for the College of Science and Engineering at Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, said:

With this industry-supported CDT, the University and its partners are addressing a current skills gap whilst providing opportunities for the next generation of data scientists, engineers and technology innovators. ”

The CDT is supported by Edinburgh's Schools of Informatics and Mathematics.

Find out more

Craig Sheridan

External Relations & Impact Manager SPADS CDT
Business Development Executive, School of Engineering