Who are the UK's ICT Pioneers 2014?

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Photo of the winners of ICT Pioneers 2014

Winners of ICT Pioneers 2014

The winners of a prestigious national competition for researchers who are pioneers in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) were announced last night at The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London.

Fifteen researchers showcased the commercial potential and business impact of their research, at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Research Exhibition and Awards Ceremony, before the three finalists were awarded cash prizes of £2,000. 

The overall winner was Nathan Chong from Imperial College London, who was presented with an additional £1,000 prize by Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of EPSRC, after pitching his research to a 'Dragon's Den'-style panel.

Nathan’s research involves Static Verification, which is concerned with the correctness of software. For example, imagine a piece of software that is designed to automatically control all the signals on a transport network. It is important to be sure that the software will perform in exactly the same way as the programmer intended. The process of verification checks that a software system meets specifications and performs as it should.

Nathan said, My research is essentially about helping programmers write better programs (PDF 2MB). I want to live in a world where technology is everywhere but also where it is correct, reliable and safe. One promising way of attacking this problem is with static verification technology. GPUVerify, a tool that I have developed at Imperial College, is an example of static verification technology that is starting to show its usefulness to industry.

These pioneering ICT researchers demonstrate why the UK is an excellent place to do research. Progress within ICT research will drive forward innovative technologies for the benefit of us all, said Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of EPSRC.

The competition recognises the most exceptional UK PhD students in ICT-related subjects who are able to communicate and demonstrate the excellence and exploitation of their research. 

The 2014 competition is being sponsored by EPSRC and industry sponsors: Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (Dstl); Hewlett Packard (HP); ARM Holdings; the British Computing Society (BCS); and BT.

Connected World Category:

Fundamental research challenges to be overcome in the design and use of new communications networks, underpinning optical communications technologies

Winner: David Wu, Optoelectronics Research Centre, University of Southampton

David has been pursuing the PhD degree at the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton. During this time he has developed a technique for highly stable phase locking of semiconductor lasers to metrology-grade optical frequency combs and has demonstrated its application in arbitrary waveform generation. 


  • Jozef Doboš, founder and CEO of 3D Repo Ltd, spin-out company from UCL
  • David Wu, Optoelectronics Research Centre, University of Southampton
  • Herry, School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh
  • Vinayak Ashok Prabhu, Manufacturing and Materials Department at the University of Cranfield
  • Leo Laughlin, Centre for Doctoral Training in Communications, University of Bristol

Transforming Society Category:

Impact of novel and emerging ICT on society

Winner: Neil Vaughan, Bournemouth University 

Epidurals are administered every two minutes in the UK however 3 per cent of patients get injuries. The procedure involves inserting an 8cm needle into the spine. Paralysing injuries cause the NHS significant insurance costs. My PhD aims to develop a virtual reality computer based patient-specific epidural simulator. This provides realistic, accurate, immersive experience to enhance epidural skills for anaesthetists, reducing patient injuries and NHS costs. This patient-specific simulator allows practice with obese patients of all body sizes, applying a data-driven approach using measured pressures from actual patients. My pioneering wireless sterile electronic epidural devices are already being used for clinical trials at Poole Hospital with obstetric patients. This trial has pioneered identification of how body mass affects needle insertion force, which allowed our creation of the first epidural simulator to model patients with various weight, height and BMI. I have developed all electronics and software models of human tissues including organs, ligament, fat, bone and skin with deformable soft and hard materials modelling.

Global target markets for these training platforms and developed medical devices include the NHS, private hospitals, medical training schools, university hospitals with opportunities for commercial partners. These devices enhance epidural training, significantly reducing NHS costs and risks of patient injury, said Neil.


  • James Bannock, EPSRC-funded Centre for Doctoral Training in Plastic Electronics at Imperial College London
  • Oliver Britton, Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford
  • Robert Merrison-Hort, School of Computing and Mathematics at Plymouth University
  • Jacques Carolan, Centre for Quantum Photonics at the University of Bristol
  • Neil Vaughan, Bournemouth University

Technology Everywhere:

Future ICT research that will develop devices to interact with technology and the rest of society

Winner: Nathan Chong, Department of Computing at Imperial College London

Nathan Chong is a PhD student in the Department of Computing at Imperial College London, where he is a member of the Multicore Programming and Software Performance Optimisation groups, led by Alastair F. Donaldson and Paul H.J. Kelly, respectively. His research interests include parallel programming, computer architecture and formal reasoning, and he is particularly interested in specifications and problems at the hardware/software boundary. Nathan is a key contributor to GPUVerify, a verification technique and tool for the automatic analysis of GPU kernels. This work has been published at top conferences in programming languages and verification, disseminated in a wide-range of academic and industry tutorials, and recently won a HiPEAC award to aid the technology transfer of this research into industry. Nathan was an intern at Microsoft Research with the Programming Principles and Tools group in 2012. Prior to joining Imperial, Nathan was a researcher for ARM and worked on hardware and software at different levels of the system stack, including CPU virtualisation (now found in the ARMv7 architecture), cache coherence verification (now in AMBA4 ACE) and weak memory models. His work is supported by the FP7 CARP (Correct and Efficient Accelerator Programming) and EPSRC PSL (Particle Science Language) projects.


  • Nathan Chong, Department of Computing at Imperial College London
  • David Wilson, Department of Computer Science at the University of Bath
  • Sebastian Stein, 'Social Inclusion in the Digital Economy Research Hub' at the University of Dundee
  • Stefano V.Albrecht, Institute of Perception, Action and Behaviour, School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh
  • Petr Hošek, Department of Computing at Imperial College London


Notes for editors

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

Reference: PN 53-14