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Human-computer interaction

Human-Computer Interaction describes the study of how humans interact with computers and how to design computer systems that are effective for humans to use. The area includes the development and study of novel interface technologies as well as considering the social, ethical and human aspects of computer interaction. Cognitive science is included where this informs the development or design of ICT systems.


The UK Human Computer Interactions (HCI) research area is vibrant and of high quality; the UK is considered to be second only to the US, as demonstrated by strong participation in leading international conferences such as the ACM conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI). The 2012 EPSRC Review of HCI noted that UK HCI is very distinctively innovative in developing new research agendas to identify challenges, engage others, stimulate creativity and work across boundaries. The community has a strongly interdisciplinary culture and interacts well with the UK's leading design community.

The HCI Theme Day held in January 2012 highlighted the importance of HCI research in facilitating the effective development of new technologies for economic and social benefit. HCI also has a lot to contribute to the cross-ICT priority, Towards an Intelligent Information Infrastructure, for example, through the understanding of meaningful personal data and social interactions. The nature of HCI research will also evolve as mobile devices and systems become the primary platform for computing, as noted in the Mobile Computing rationale. A significant proportion of the investment in the HCI research area has been made by the RCUK Digital Economy theme and this is an important part of the Digital Economy landscape. HCI research underpins work in all four Digital Economy Challenge Areas. The HCI landscape is broad and diverse with active research groups across a large number of Universities in the UK.

Significant impact comes from HCI research when the community work closely with other research areas at an early stage to tackle societal challenges or problems. In the EPSRC portfolio there are strong examples of this cooperation and applications in a wide range of application domains; this reflects the importance of the research area. There is, however, an opportunity for the HCI area to contribute more to the challenges of Manufacturing the Future as these are currently under-represented in the EPSRC portfolio. In light of these observations we expect researchers working in the HCI area to contribute to the Working Together cross ICT priority by engaging with researchers working in other areas both within and beyond the ICT portfolio, in order to maximise the impact of HCI research.

In order to preserve the contribution HCI makes and underpin the other themes, investment in this research area will be maintained relative to other areas of the portfolio. Researchers are encouraged to build on the strengths within the UK HCI research area by endeavouring to develop new theories and methods, or exploring new interaction techniques and media.

In determining this course of action we followed the general approach taken across the ICT theme. Some more specific examples include:

Current investments

For information on current EPSRC investments in this research area, please see Grants on the Web (GoW).

EPSRC investments on 01 April 2011

Human-computer interaction is 9.7% of EPSRC's total investment in ICT related research areas.

The proportion of funding in Human-computer interaction by EPSRC theme on 1st April 2011.

Number of EPSRC Grants 1, 2 Value of Grants 1, 3
174 £66.1M
  1. Based on number and value of current grants (excluding training grants) on 01 April 2011.
  2. Grants are classified using one or more research area. The number of grants listed does not reflect the proportion assigned to different research areas and thus all grants of some relevance to the research area are counted.
  3. Grants are classified using one or more research area. The value of investment does reflect the proportion assigned to different research areas.

Current Major EPSRC Research Investments include:

  • Social inclusion Through the Digital Economy - Research Hub, Newcastle University
  • HCI FIT Lab (programme grant), Swansea University
  • University College London Interaction Centre (programme grant), University College London
  • Interaction and Graphics Group, University of Bristol
  • Interactive Systems Group, University of Glasgow
  • Horizon Digital Economy Research Hub, University of Nottingham
  • dot.rural Digital Economy Research Hub, University of Aberdeen

EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training of relevance


Richard Gunn