UCL £18m for future ICT

Wednesday 7th March 2012
Courtesy: http://www.teach-ict.com/gcse_new/internet/internet_www/miniweb/pg10.htm

Three UCL departments receive £18m to develop new optical fibres, exploit the terahertz frequency, and devise a new ways to design adaptive software, a sector where Stirling University will play a part.

The Dean of UCL (left) Engineering, Professor Anthony Finkelstein, said: “UCL Engineering is excited by the scientific challenges inherent in these important programmes, and obviously pleased that the EPSRC recognises us as a key player delivering innovation to the UK and the global economy.

"Our unique capabilities spanning research and knowledge transfer, from optics through networks to software services, allow us to tackle some of the large scale technology challenges that face the digital economy, and meet our mission to ‘Change the World.’”

The Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, and the Optical Networks Group will receive a £4.75m EPSRC programme grant to develop a new generation of optical fibres, breaking through current imposed data transmissions limits.

The Department’s Photonics group is to work on wireless technology developing ways to use the under-exploited terahertz (THz) frequency band and funded by a £6.6m grant.

Centre for Research on Evolution, Search and Testing (CREST) within UCL Computer Science, will also embark on a new way to design software, using adaptive techniques and automation to speed software development, with the third programme grant, worth £6.80m.

Broadband goes extra-wide
Developments in optical fibre transmission have enabled vast improvements in telecommunications and the Internet that now underpin almost every aspect of economy and society.

However, the UK’s current infrastructure faces strain from the demand for ever-higher bandwidth. By 2020the prediction is rate of traffic growth will be 10x bigger than the growth of capacity to handle it. The Optical Network Group within UCL Engineering, led by Professor Polina Bayvel (right) is awarded this   grant to unlock more optical communications capacity, enabling growth to continue.

With collaborators in Aston University, Professor Bayvel and her team will develop a new generation of optical systems by combining advanced digital signal processing techniques, novel modulation formats, and coding, explicitly designed to work with the properties of optical fibres. Previous thinking on fundamental limits on data transmission, may, by combining theoretical and experimental approaches,  be broken hopes the UCL-Aston team.
 
Gold at the end of the spectrum
 The THz frequency region (left) is the last unexploited part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Lying between radio and optical frequencies, the bandwidth available is around 30x greater than the entire allocated radio spectrum. Main reason the resource has been so little used is due to the complexity, bulk, high power consumption and lack of coherence of current THz technologies.

The programme brings together teams from the Universities of Cambridge, Leeds, & UCL and the London Centre for Nanotechnology that pioneered THz quantum cascade lasers, microwave photonics and THz quantum state control, to open up the THz spectrum for widespread scientific and commercial application, through the use, for the first time, of photonics-enabled coherent techniques.

The programme aims to maintain its pre-eminence exploiting it to establish UK leadership in wireless communications, with a thousand-fold enhancement in bandwidth available to untethered devices; in quantum information processing with optically controlled gates in silicon; and in advanced imaging technology, especially for biomedicine.
 
The software to make software
Computer systems have automated many tasks, eliminating mindless repetition and vastly speeding up processes. But developing software itself remains both slow and error-prone, wasting developers’ time and preventing rapid adjustment to changing needs.

The grant of £6.65m to the Centre for Research on Evolution Serarch and Testing CREST led by Professor Mark Harman, (right) will work to address this by developing a radical new technique of Dynamic Adaptive Automated Software Engineering (DAASE).

DAASE will develop theory, algorithms, methods, techniques and tools for adaptive software engineering, with the aim of producing systems that self-monitor and evolve to handle dynamically changing development processes and dynamically changing operating environments. It will draw on expertise from the universities of York, Birmingham and Stirling.

Software development is a global scope problem. As well as frustrations with the glacial pace of software adaptation, the ubiquity of software in our life means its quality directly affects many crucial industries – finance, security, supply management, medicine to name a few. Rapid, flexible development techniques are crucial to respond to the changing world around us.
 
Programme grants are a flexible mechanism to provide funding to world-leading research groups to address significant major research challenges. They support a suite of related research activities focused on one strategic research theme. Although it is expected that most proposals will be interdisciplinary and collaborative in nature, they can address key challenges in a single discipline.
 
The UK’s ICT sector is the largest in Europe expected to grow to over £29bn by 2012. Combined creative industries and ICT sectors employ 3m people. 

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