Digital signal processing

The theory, algorithms and architectures for processing data and signals and the information they carry (e.g. audio, video, image, speech, sonar, radar, medical, sensor, graph signals, big data, network data) for applications across science, technology and media. This research area includes the theory and techniques concerned with detection, estimation, coding, transmission, enhancement, analysis, representation, recording, reconstruction, transformation and interpretation of signals, data and information.

We aim to maintain the size of this research area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio. This strategy reflects growth over the last Delivery Plan, which means capacity is now commensurate with this area’s importance, as well as its broad applicability and relevance to many other areas. The area’s focus seems to have narrowed, however, due to an emphasis on defence challenges; there is a need to take opportunities offered by applications in other sectors and developments arising in mathematics, for example.

Digital Signal Processing is a key underpinning area. As society becomes increasingly connected and reliant on electronic devices everywhere from the home to healthcare, the efficient nature of those connections and safe, secure communication between them assumes growing importance. Signal processing is the medium by which most of this will be carried out.

There is a well co-ordinated activity in the defence sector resulting from investment in 2013 in the £6 million University Defence Research Collaboration (UDRC). As a result, there has been a focus on priorities for defence-related research in this area, but there is an opportunity to address many other potential application areas, including health, autonomous systems, robotics, manufacturing, aerospace, security, communications, broadcasting and home entertainment, biology and environmental sciences, and the creative industries.

By the end of the Delivery Plan, we aim to have stronger connections between researchers in this area and those across a range of application areas. This includes the research and user communities in communications and networks, vision, hearing and imaging, human-computer interaction, music and entertainment, healthcare, manufacturing and environment.

Enabling this will require links between Digital Signal Processing researchers and those working in areas that could contribute to its future development (e.g. machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, optical sensing and mathematics).


The growing availability of cheap and portable sensors is leading to an explosion of data in a wide variety of sectors. The challenge of handling, analysing and making sense of this data will require new technologies. Separating weak sensor-signals from background and other noise and then analysing them will present challenges for the signal processing community to solve if this potential is to be realised. The community has a key role to play and linking theory to practice will be important.

Digital Signal Processing in the UK has a vibrant, world-class research community (Evidence source 1) and there is industry demand for PhDs with solid Digital Signal Processing and machine learning skills (Evidence source 2,3).

Priorities for defence-related research in this area have been the subject of scrutiny with respect to the development of and support for the UDRC. There is, however, a need to recognise and understand the opportunities created by other sectors (Evidence source 2,3,4).

This research area can contribute substantially to all four Prosperity Outcomes and, in particular, aid delivery of the following Ambitions within Connected, Productive and Healthy Nation Outcomes:

C1: Enable a competitive, data-driven economy

Achieving this will rely on the availability of robust data.

C3: Deliver intelligent technologies and systems

These will need to act on robust data.

P4: Drive business innovation through digital transformation      

There will be a need for signal processing, e.g. to enable efficient transfer of information and analysis of data.

H3: Optimise diagnosis and treatment

Technology is allowing the monitoring of many physiological functions, resulting in large-scale multiple data streams even from a single patient. Signal processing is needed to help clinicians understand the outputs.

  1. Mid-term review of the UDRC (September 2015), which commented on the international standing of UK research in signal processing.
  2. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) workshops with Network and Programme Grant Directors.
  3. Discussions with the community.
  4. ICT Strategic Advisory Team.

At the time of producing this rationale, there were no published reports dealing explicitly with this research area.

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.


We aim to maintain this area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC support by research area in Digital signal processing (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Nigel Birch
Job title: Senior Portfolio Manager
Department: ICT
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444224