Human-computer interaction

The study of how humans interact with computers and how to design computer systems that are effective for people to use. This research area includes development and study of novel interface technologies, as well as consideration of the social and ethical aspects of computer system interaction and aspects of human-robot interaction. Cognitive science is also included where this informs the development or design of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) systems.

We aim to maintain the size of this research area as a proportion of the whole EPSRC portfolio, but with some further focusing of effort. This strategy recognises the importance of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) research to a number of nationally important areas and the need to maintain capability and capacity in research and training to address these, while acknowledging the large, diverse nature of the current portfolio in this research area.

We aim to support a diverse portfolio of interdisciplinary and human-centred research which accelerates impact and addresses the challenges of real-world deployments in a range of application domains. However, to maintain the area's health and meet the key need of increasing translation of research outputs between different application domains, by the end of the Delivery Plan we wish to see a research area that includes an increased proportion of underpinning research. Researchers should therefore take opportunities individually and as part of larger, application-focused projects to prioritise fundamental research, ranging from models, methods and theories of (and for) interactive system design/development, to novel interaction technologies.

The community is well-placed to help meet many, varied societal challenges and aid development of a number of key technologies. We aim for a research portfolio that contributes high-quality work relevant to the Digital Economy Theme and development of the Internet of Things, and addresses challenges posed by other increasingly important areas. By the end of the Delivery Plan, we expect the community to have made substantial contributions to:

  • The development of technologies to support interaction by multiple people with multiple complex and intelligent systems as detailed under EPSRC's Future Intelligent Technologies cross-ICT priority.
  • Enabling interaction with and action from data, as detailed under EPSRC's Data Enabled Decision Making cross-ICT priority

Collaborative healthcare, digital manufacturing, the creative industries and cyber-security in an increasingly connected world are also areas where HCI research can have substantial impact. The community should consider challenges posed by these and address EPSRC's Safe and Secure ICT cross-ICT priority. Many are also industry priorities. Researchers should continue to take opportunities to increase the uptake of research in industrial practice.

To maximise the impact of HCI research, and in line with EPSRC's Cross-Disciplinarity and Co-Creation cross-ICT priority, researchers should actively co-create new technologies (e.g. for interaction with complex and/or intelligent and autonomous systems) with colleagues in areas such as Artificial Intelligence Technologies, Graphics and Visualisation, and Electronics. To address the challenges identified, researchers should also contribute to a portfolio which demonstrates clear interactions and collaborations with researchers in the arts and humanities and social sciences.


This large, diverse area is mainly characterised by high-quality research and world-leading groups; by most metrics, the UK is second only to the US. (Evidence source 1,2,3,4) While less dominant in human-robot interaction, there are still pockets of UK excellence in that field. (Evidence source 1,3)

This area is inherently highly interdisciplinary, demonstrating substantial links to the wider ICT and EPSRC research areas as well as the social sciences and design. (Evidence source 3,4) The current EPSRC portfolio - the predominant source of funding in the wider HCI landscape - leans slightly more towards application-driven work and is dominated by targeted funding. (Evidence source 1) There is an opportunity for an increased focus on underpinning theories and methods and new interaction technologies to support the discipline long-term, and maximise industrial and academic impact. (Evidence source 7)

The area demonstrates a good balance between large and small grants, with an increasing number of collaborations on large grants across the ICT portfolio. (Evidence source 1)

This area demonstrates good industrial support and contributes to many areas of societal and economic importance. (Evidence source 1,3,4) It is key to improving cyber-security, has strong relevance to the Digital Economy Theme, digital manufacturing and the creative industries, and has potential for significant impact in healthcare technologies (e.g. underpinning the Healthcare Technologies Theme's Transforming Community Health and Care Grand Challenge). (Evidence source 3,5,6,7)

Similarly, full realisation of intelligent technologies (including robotics and autonomous systems), the Internet of Things and human interaction with data requires development of trusted, acceptable, accessible systems, and increasingly systems to support interaction of multiple people with multiple computing systems - a challenge that HCI researchers can contribute to directly. (Evidence source 4,8,9,10) HCI research can contribute by developing new interaction technologies, theories and methodologies through collaboration and co-creation with other communities. Overlap is increasing with the Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing area, but applications relevant to intelligent technologies and data science are under-represented in the portfolio. (Evidence source 1)

This wide applicability to different applications and the need to support co-development of key technologies result in the need for an HCI portfolio of this size and for enough researchers throughout the career path. There are a proportionate number of students in the area, demonstrating a good balance between Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and Industrial Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering (CASE); this supports demand from academia and industry for researchers with appropriate cross-disciplinary experience. (Evidence source 1,7) Reasonable capacity exists throughout the pipeline, with applications submitted by those ranging from new academics to Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) HCI  fellows. (Evidence source 8) Expertise is concentrated at a relatively small number of universities but a growing number are developing related activities. (Evidence source 1,7)

This research area can potentially contribute to Resilient and Productive Nation Outcomes, is expected to be key to enabling all Connected Nation Ambitions, and will also contribute to the Healthy Nation Outcome. Particular Ambitions of relevance are:

C1: Enable a competitive, data-driven economy

This research area can help make data actionable and accessible by developing innovative methods for human interaction with data through co-creation with other data science areas.

C3: Deliver intelligent technologies and systems

This area will contribute to development of improved methods and theories for interaction between humans and both embodied and unembodied intelligent systems.

C4: Ensure a safe and trusted cyber society

This area should aid the development of trusted, acceptable ICT systems.

C5: Design for an inclusive, innovative and confident digital society

This area should contribute through development of new, inclusive methods for interaction with ever more ubiquitous and pervasive ICT systems.

H1: Transform community health and care

This area will co-create accessible, inclusive interaction systems which support collaborative care and behaviour change.

  1. EPSRC application and student data and bibliometric data analysis.
  2. Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, UOA 11 Panel, The REF UOA 11 Report (PDF), (2015).
  3. EPSRC, HCI Review 2012 (PDF), (2012).
  4. EPSRC, Future Intelligent Technologies (FIT) Workshop (PDF), (2015).
  5. EPSRC, Healthcare Technologies Grand Challenges (PDF) Report, (2014).
  6. EPSRC, Content Industries Research and Innovation Strategy, (2015).
  7. Engagement: discussions with the ICT Strategic Advisory Team, the Digital Economy Programme Advisory Board, relevant REF panellists, the UK Computing Research Committee (UKCRC) Executive Committee, ICT Theme workshops and leaders in the research field.
  8. Knowledge Transfer Network, IoT Tree of Life White Paper, (2015).
  9. EPSRC, ICT Perspectives on Big Data Analytics Workshop (PDF), (2015).
  10. Government Chief Scientific Adviser, The Internet of Things: Making the Most of the Second Digital Revolution (PDF), (2014).

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 Human-computer interaction (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: Ellie Gilvin
Job title: Senior Portfolio Manager
Section / Team: ICT
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444260