Digital Economy

The RCUK Digital Economy (DE) theme has at its core mission a drive to explore the transformational use of digital technology in a societally driven context; to consider how people may actually use digital technology to help their lives and to help businesses generate wealth for the UK.

Applications to all DE fellowship priority areas should demonstrate:

  • An aptitude for working in and across a wide multidisciplinary environment, building bridges across communities and research areas
  • How the fellow will engage with research users in order to develop their research programme and ensure that the research will address real-world challenges. A clear and detailed pathways to impact statement is an important part of the application.

Fellowship applications should explain the overall research vision of the applicant, and describe a core programme of outstanding, innovative research. At least half of the proposed research must fall within EPSRC’s remit. If you have any doubts on this point, please contact EPSRC before applying.

Note that co-investigators are permitted on fellowship proposals provided that they bring complementary and different skills and expertise.

Applications need to define and justify the focus of the proposed fellowship research within the priority area. Applicants may also wish to take note of the ICT fellowship priority areas. Applications which span both ICT and Digital Economy priority areas are welcome. Please explain in your covering letter which area(s) you are applying to, and make a note of which is the primary area.

Trust, Identity, Privacy and Security (Early and Established Career Fellowships only)

Issues of Trust, Identity, Privacy and Security (TIPS) are of fundamental importance to both the RCUK DE Theme and the cyber security strand of the Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security (PaCCS) and help address the EPSRC’s Connected Nation priority to Ensure a safe and trusted cyber society. Fellowships in this priority area should help to develop and bring together the community, supporting true leaders who are able to deliver both underpinning and enabling research.

The cross-cutting research challenges involved are diverse. As a fellow you will need to blend and balance the technological, economic, social, cultural, behavioural and political to address the complex challenges of this priority successfully. Your solutions will require broad and far-reaching research programmes which may span digital anthropology, crime, mathematics, forensics, sociology, social policy, design, economics, ethics, law, psychology, organisational studies and regulatory consideration among others.

Applicants who are seeking to address this priority should be aware of the related priority of Safe and Secure ICT within the EPSRC ICT theme. The Safe and Secure ICT priority encourages researchers across all aspects of ICT to consider how their work can reduce, manage or avoid risks associated with ICT while still realizing the benefits of such technologies. Applicants should consider how their proposal might contribute to the objectives of both the Safe and Secure ICT priority and the DE/PaCCS TIPS priority in order to support design of their research programme. Applicants will need to define and justify the focus of the proposed fellowship research, including through the description of national importance.

Advancing the Understanding and Development of the Internet of Things for the Digital Economy (Early and Established Career Fellowships only)

The future of the internet is extending beyond conventional computing devices and into other everyday objects. This is the Internet of Things (IoT), a term used to describe a set of technologies, systems and methodologies that underpins internet-enabled applications based on physical objects and the environment seamlessly integrating into this information network. IoT is described in the Government report, Internet of Things: making the most of the Second Digital Revolution, as a concept where not only people but objects and devices are able to network and communicate with each other and share data. It will involve an increase in machine‑to‑machine (M2M) communication, with up to one trillion devices or “things” which could be connected to networks across industries. The Internet of Things is an emerging area of interest and at the core of future development of the next generation of the Internet. IoT enabled devices could include GPS/geo-location devices and sensors to monitor the environment. It could have a big impact on societal challenges.

Many aspects of IoT operate in different contexts and sectors; these could include smart augmented cities, intelligent transport, health and medical care, law enforcement, the service sector and the creative digital economy. It presents the UK with an opportunity to take a lead in this global challenge. Earlier work between the RCUK DE theme's three Research Council partners, the IoT Special Interest Group (SIG) and Innovate UK. Identified long-term research challenges for IoT development (see A roadmap for interdisciplinary research of the Internet of Things (PDF 387KB)). The Roadmap identified six themes cutting across the multiple disciplines, with each theme containing a number of areas for research.

In the increasingly interconnected IoT world, where large networks of objects collect and distribute data over the Internet we will need to better understand how people interact with those objects and what business opportunities there are to exploit this. The IoT world, with its billions of interconnected devices and sensors, will create new data sets that are so large, dynamic and complex that currently available analytical techniques are insufficient for people to derive value from them. Using data intelligently, to enable a step change in converting data to knowledge - to provide insight and value - has the potential to transform business and organisations, and support the UK’s strong research base, by driving innovation and economic growth.

We are looking to support Fellowships in areas of IoT relevant to the DE theme and also addressing the EPSRC Connected Nation Ambition to Achieve transformational development and use of the IoT and Deliver intelligent technologies and systems. Applications in any of the six theme areas highlighted in the Roadmap areas are welcome. We encourage a focus on:

  • Data analytics, in order to increase the UK’s capacity and capability to better analyse and process massive volumes of fast moving, complex, variable data and provide a response that informs or assists the user.
  • IoT actuation, to help the development of safe and secure cyber-physical systems that have the ethical, legal and regulatory aspects embedded within the technology.
  • Holistic approaches to security of whole IoT systems, including issues concerning privacy, reliability, regulation and the balance between security and energy efficiency.

Designing and exploiting digital systems for society and the economy (Early and Established Career fellowships only)

Applications to this priority area should explore the transformational use of new and emerging technologies to develop innovative solutions to societal or economic challenges, for example, better services, health & care provision, digital democracy and entertainment. Applications to this priority area should blend and balance understanding of the human, socio-economic and technical challenges in using digital technologies. Applications should focus on new and emerging technologies that are not available off-the-shelf and may as yet be unproven;  examples could include aspects of distributed ledger technologies, new digital platforms, artificial intelligence technologies or virtual/augmented reality. What is the innovation opportunity, or unique proposition, that the new or emerging technology brings to a new design, system or infrastructure that could really contribute to a solution?