ICT research - The Next Decade Workshop video

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The ICT team recently held a workshop bringing together researchers from across the community to involve them in the development of strategy for the programme in the context of our new Delivery Plan.

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Dr Liam Blackwell - Head of Information and Communications Technology EPSRC [LB]

This workshop is actually about engaging with members of the research community on the development of strategy for the ICT programme. I don’t think there’s been a workshop, certainly that we’ve organised, that actually brought together all of the ICT communities and actually got them talking about what was important in different themes, but also across themes. The ICT portfolio and the IC research area is very broad, you have got very basic fundamental work at one end right through to very applied or more downstream research at another end and you’ve also got very different cultures and disciplines within it. It’s not like physics or chemistry and ICTitself, whenever you find it in your pocket with your mobile phone or on the computer, actually draws together lots of research. So in order to get that impact at the end it has to draw lots of different parts of the community.

Professor Mike Chantler - Heriot-Watt University [MC]

From photonics devices through to social networking people, it’s an incredible range within ICT and I think when you collaborate with people they give you quite different views and it takes a while as its hard work to actually communicate with other people from different cultures and using different terminology, but then things start to spark and you get exciting things happening.


So what were we working on? We’re obviously looking at the current state of the portfolio, getting an idea for what the research landscape currently looks like, what’s out there and what are people doing. Getting them to think about why they are doing that and about what should be done in the future, what should the portfolio actually contain, what should the research landscape be like and how should it evolve and adapt over the next ten years.

Professor Martin Dawson - University of Strathclyde [MD]

Clearly the ICT community is a very broad one and partly the motivation for the meeting is to help develop an understanding across the portfolio rather than people having quite narrow views of their own area of work and to see if we can articulate some challenges that will energise the whole programme and lead to a more coordinated approach and structure.


The workshop brought together 43 members of the research community across ICT, and what they did was actually they were talking between different parts of the community, so it wasn’t all the computer scientists in one group talking together, they were actually talking to people from electronics and photonics. That means that what they then decide as being priorities is actually from a debate which takes into account current different perspectives, and different ideas of what’s important. But then when they go outside of the workshop and they consider what they might work on in order to move the portfolio and the landscape of research on, they are operating in slightly different ways to what they were doing before they’ve had new ideas, new perspectives and they have made new connections.


Something I’m very conscious of is the emergence of quantum information and quantum computation and I’m keen, both as an individual researcher and as a member of SAT, to promote a discussion about how the emergence of that area will restructure the programme.


The second day had moved into a stage where people where thinking about what the shape of the portfolio could look like over ten years.

John Bagshaw - Technology Executive, BAE Systems [JB]

What we’ve got down here is a set of bits and pieces of items which people are researching now and we’ve set them in a timeline which shows when we need to do the bits and pieces of work so that they can feed into these particular societal challenges now.


It actually got the community going away from the workshop thinking about what it would do to try and create that shape of the portfolio that it sees as being important. In doing that, whether it is encouraging networking and enabling networking, thinking about how the community can engage with us, right through to ideas for research projects, would actually be the first step in developing emerging areas or new opportunities.

Dr George Constantinides - Imperial College [GC]

From my perspective as someone who works in technology I’ve seen a lot of potential application areas for my work and from talking to other people that’s also true for them. So I think there’s the potential for a lot of interesting collaborations to come out of this, over and above the planned idea for the workshop.


It’s highlighted where different parts of the community were actually converging. There are people working in computer science thinking about how to manage data and there are also people in communications thinking about how to actually get that data to two different places. There are people thinking about how you programme computers that have many cores in them, equally there are people thinking about how you actually verify that code is correct.

Professor Richard Penty - University of Cambridge [RP]

One specific thing which I thought was very interesting that we discussed was how the digital economy programme was a very good idea, in particular to get computer scientists at the moment interacting with social scientists to see how they could better apply their research to a real life, real situations and people. And we did feel that maybe that very good thing could be broadened to include hardware and technologies themselves could very well benefit from exactly the same process.


It’s been shown that one of the major differentiators in productivity and in performance of economies is actually the early adoption of new ICT. What we are talking about is how we make sure that the portfolio of research, going forward over time, contains the elements it needs and is appropriately balanced to meet the future challenges for the UK.


We need to be able to articulate what we are doing and what benefits we are going to provide and you can only do that by painting the bigger picture, but each of us individually don’t have that capability, we need to get together and we need to show how our research interconnects for the benefit of UK plc. That’s a bit cliché but that’s what should drive it.


The workshops didn’t give us sufficient to map out the next ten years. I think it gave us a lot of useful information on how the portfolio couldn’t or should evolve over time, which we can take away and absorb and marry against thinking that we already have. I wouldn’t pretend that we have a map of the future, but what we have started is actually a process of engaging the community in shaping that portfolio, shaping capability.


It’s a mixture of opportunities in terms of ideas generation because it forces you to think in a completely different way and that you can take that bit back to your own group and you can do the in-depth research from that. The other thing is finding people you can genuinely collaborate with, where there’s benefits on both sides and you both gain, and the only way you are going to do that is lots of networking and lots of events like this. So I think it’s really valid, I think it’s really exciting actually.