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Ulster Academic Appointed To Top Government Advisory Committee on Research and Training

15 January 2013

University of Ulster academic, Professor Gerard Parr has been invited onto a prestigious UK Government Committee which identifies priorities for research andearly career sciencetraining funding.

Professor Parr is currently the only representative from Northern Irelandserving onthe committee.

The Chair of Telecommunications Engineering in theSchool of Computing and Information Engineeringat Ulster’sColerainecampus, he has been appointed to theStrategic Advisory Team of the UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC).

Membershipof the teamisdrawnfrom across the UK scientific and industrial communityandProfessor Parr’s appointment isseen asan acknowledgement of his distinguished academic career to dateand as recognition ofthe highquality research being carried out at Ulster.

The EPSRC is the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences with an annual budget of over £800 million. It covers a broad range of subjects – from mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering.

Professor Parr willhave a specific focus on the ICT sector and will be joined byother leading UK academicsand representatives from global companiesto help identify research andresearch fellowtraining priorities and strategy withinthe Research Council Portfolio.

A native of Hilltown in the Mournes in Co Down,ProfessorParrexplainedthat in his new advisory role, he will be expected to alert EPSRC to new and emerging research andearly career researchertraining opportunities, including internationalinitiatives; to advise on the balance between research and training activities; and to identify and advise on priority areas for future funding that will be of benefit to the UKeconomy.

“EPSRC supports excellent, internationally-leading long term research and high quality postgraduate training in order to contribute to the economic competitiveness of the UK and the quality of life of its people. At any one time, it supports a portfolio of research and training between £2-£3 billion," he said.

“Our role will be toensure that the funding of early career researchers and fundamental science support the skills and the research base to meet the future needs of government, industry and society in the UK.”

Professor Parrcontinued: “The ever increasing reliance on the Internet and the proliferation of wireless access devices and associated applications means thatinvestment in fundamental science and trainingof future engineers canbenefit everyone, regardless of their economic situation or geographical location. So funding of ICT research and training is a priority for the EPSRC.

“Increasingly, consumers, companies and government view the provision of services and data on the Internet as vital to their day-to-day living and business operations. The continuedgrowth in fixed and wireless broadband accessusing smart phones and tablet PCsandrelatedtechnologiesis vital for the UK’s economic prosperity, as well as for the competitiveness, safety and well-being of its people,” he said.

Professor Parrsaid thechallengesfacing the ICT sector include the needensure that the underlying technology and systems needed for the continued growth, access to and management of intelligent information infrastructure are designed, tested and brought to market.

“The vision for ICT capability is to support UK scientists to deliver internationally recognised excellence and the high impact research and training to meet the futureneeds across the science base," he observed.

Professor Parr said there aresignificantengineering challengesaheadto addressthe management,distribution andstorage of ever increasing amounts of digital data across our national telecommunications infrastructure.

“Systems forso-called intelligent cities with connected sensors for services such as health monitoring at home, smart vehicle transport, Internet-TV based education, and power/gas/water utility monitoringare no longer the stuff of the movies. They arealreadyhere.”

But with such developmentscome challenges, continued Professor Parr.

“There are many challenges ahead. They includethe design and capacity planning of hardware and software,regulation and ethics, systemperformance and theabilityof the technologyto support hundreds and thousands of customers. With these demands come other challenges related tosecurity and trustof the systems,energy efficiencyof the devices and telecommunications networksandultimately, keeping thefinancial costsdown.The desire for such innovations support the growing demand for services such as Cloud Computing.”

He continued: “UK universities have an international reputation for cutting-edge research into the technologies and industries that will change the face of society and the economy and how we engage with key areas such as digital communications and linked applications is an enabler in that development."

Professor Parr and other members of theUlsterInformationand Communications Engineering ResearchGroupat Coleraine - Professor Bryan Scotney, Professor Sally McClean and Dr Philip Morrow – already contribute to national and international research projects funded by industry and government.

Hisappointment to the EPSRC comes on the back of a very successful year for the School of Computing and Information Engineering which has attracted significant funding from the EPSRC ICT Theme (India-UK Centre of Excellence) and the RCUK Digital Economy Theme(IT as a Utility) for projects with India and across the UK.

In the most recent UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), Computer Science research at Ulster was ranked amongst the top universities in the UK.Computer Science research at Ulster was ranked 15th out of 81 UK universities in terms of research power. The unitsubmission of 41 staff was the 8th largest in the UK, with 55% of the submission judged to be world-leading or internationally excellent, and90% internationally recognised.