�70m boost for UK science and engineering projects

More than £70m is being injected into 18 UK universities in a drive to tackle challenges including airport congestion and searching large quantities of visual data in real time.

In response to growing concerns over air transport capacity and rising demand, a major £2.8m project, called OR-MASTER, will use advanced modelling techniques to unlock additional capacity from the UK’s existing airports.

Mathematicians at the Universities of Lancaster and Stirling will work closely with airlines and airports to come up with solution algorithms to improve the efficiency of airports and in doing so reduce passenger delays.

Professor Konstantinos G. Zografos, project lead at Lancaster University, said: "Existing approaches to airport slot allocation do not consider all the real-world complexity involved. Therefore, there is room to improve airport capacity utilization which will benefit airlines, airports and the travelling public.”

The research has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), alongside the universities that are to benefit from the £70m boost. The support comprises more than £30m of capital funding for 31 bundles of new equipment such as ultra-bright lasers, electron microscopes and advanced x-ray imaging.

In addition, more than £40m will be invested in research projects spanning physical sciences and engineering, according to EPSRC.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s chief executive, said: “Put simply, investment in world-class projects, equipment and people helps to make the UK the best place in the world to research, discover and innovate.”

Another potentially ground breaking project is SeeBiByte. Computer scientists at the University of Oxford plan on using their £4.5m grant to develop the next generation of computer vision methods that are able to analyse, describe and search image and video content with human-like capabilities.

Image analytics is still in an early stage of development so SeeBiByte could impact the way we use extracted information in various sectors such as healthcare, surveillance or the environmental monitoring of roads.

Other engineering projects include: 'Mobile Robotics - enabling a pervasive technology of the future' (University of Oxford, £5m) and 'SynFabFun – from membrane material synthesis to fabrication and function' (Newcastle University, £4.5m).

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