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Engineering the future: Southampton Regius Lecture 2015

Published: 5 June 2015

The University of Southampton’s world-leading achievements in autonomous systems and artificial intelligence will be celebrated at a special event in London this week to mark the inaugural lecture of Professor Nick Jennings, who has been awarded a Regius Professorship in Computer Science.

The event, which is taking place on Tuesday 9 June at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London, will demonstrate cutting-edge work with examples drawn from state-of-the-art EPSRC and EU-funded projects including:

• Advanced design and methodology tools that help build and fly sub-20kg state of the art fixed and rotary wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with full autonomous control systems and on-board cameras.

• A toolset that provides testing and analysis of autonomous systems based on realistic scenarios before they are built. The toolset is already being applied to applications involving the safety assurance of intelligent control in smart grids, railway interlocking and UAVs.

• Low-cost autonomous robots, such as the Delphin II and the Octopus Robot, that operate in challenging marine environments with a high degree of reliability and minimal environmental impact.

• Light, unmanned aircraft that deliver scientific instruments to extreme altitudes to improve the accuracy of weather prediction and climate models.

Rotary wing unmanned aerial vehicle

Professor William Powrie, Dean of Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton, says: “"Engineering at Southampton is about the development and application of pioneering science to provide practical solutions to issues of global and societal importance. Our submissions to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) were judged the most powerful in their units of assessment. As the first of what we hope will become an annual event, this showcase demonstrates our internationally-renowned research that is shaping the future of our world.”

Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi, Dean of Physical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Southampton, adds: “Algorithms and software have a tremendous impact on society, from the Internet and consumer electronics to healthcare and transportation. Autonomous systems, built on these intelligent algorithms and software, will be one of the most powerful tools in tackling global challenges.”

The University of Southampton was one of just 12 UK institutions awarded a Regius Professorship by HM The Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee and the only institution ever to be awarded a Regius Professor in Computer Science.

A Regius Professorship reflects the exceptionally high quality of teaching and research at an institution and is a rare privilege – before the recent awards, only two had been created in the past century.

Professor Nick Jennings

Nick Jennings, Professor of Computer Science and a Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government, is an internationally-recognised authority in the areas of artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and agent-based computing. Professor Jennings has pioneered the application of multi-agent technology developing real world systems and leads the innovative ORCHID programme investigating how people and software agents can effectively work together to improve disaster response operations and enable smart energy systems.

Professor Jennings says: “It is a great honour for Southampton to be awarded a Regius Chair in Computer Science and reflects extremely well on the quality of research and teaching of the whole department over many years. I’m honoured to be the inaugural post holder and will endeavour to use it as a platform to highlight the fundamental importance of computer science to modern society.”

Professor Jennings will also be joined by a number of academics, business leaders and government advisors such as Sir Mark Walport, Chief Scientific Advisor to HM Government and Head of the Government Office for Science, in panel-led discussions throughout the day.

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