Grant bonanza for Imperial

Imperial College London has won grants worth a total of £4.6m from the European Research Council’s inaugural Starting Independent Research competition this month.

Three projects from Imperial’s Department of Computing were awarded funds for research into new technologies to analyse human behaviour, improve robotic vision, and develop models for complex software systems. Imperial’s Department of Materials and Institute for Biomedical Engineering also received funds for potentially life-saving research into new techniques for growing human tissue.

One of the winners, Dr Maja Pantic, is leading a team developing new computer vision and signal processing technology that can automatically analyse human behaviour from facial expressions, body movements and audio cues such as laughter, to interpret human emotion.

Pantic believes this technology could be used to automatically recognise fatigue in drivers, detect aggressive behaviour in public spaces, and analyse deceptive behaviour – of particular use, she feels, in border control.

Designing new algorithms to improve robot vision will form the basis of a research project led by another winner, Dr Andrew Davison, also from Imperial’s Department of Computing.

Davison believes his technology could take the drudgery out of housework. He says his research will have applications in ‘consumer robotics’ in which low-cost self-navigating machines are able to clean the home. He also thinks this technology will have applications in the automotive industry where cars of the future will drive without human involvement.

A new approach to modelling how complex software systems should function also received funding. Lead researcher, Dr Sebastian Uchitel, and his team believe their theoretical technique will aid engineers in constructing higher quality software systems.

Imperial’s last award will support new techniques for growing human tissue to improve the quality of life for patients with cancer.

A team led by Dr Molly Stevens of the Department of Materials and the Institute of Biomedical Engineering will develop improved nanostructured scaffolds to help new tissue grow.