Southampton wins code-generation award

An academic at the University of Southampton has been awarded £300,000 to improve the safety and usability of automatically generated software code commonly used in the space and automotive industries.

Dr Bernd Fischer at the university’s school of electronics and computer science has received funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop systematic techniques and supporting tools that will allow application developers to customise automatically generated code efficiently and reliably without needing to modify either the code generator or the generated code.

According to Fischer, who has spent much of his career at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is one of the collaborators on this project, software developers generally rely on code generation as a key technology to translate high-level models into code. Although this speeds up development and increases productivity and reliability, the output code often differs from the user’s exact requirements and thus needs customisation.

Over a three-year period, Dr Fischer proposes to develop a domain-specific code generator with the capacity to support reliable code customisation.

“This research is about making changes to the output of code generators,” said Fischer. “It’s about making the code generator more flexible without having to go into the inner guts of the machine. Users in safety-critical application domains such as automotive and avionics systems will particularly benefit from the assurance support we can provide for customisations.”

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