Software engineering

Research into the design, implementation and maintenance of software, enabling development of software that is dependable, efficient and maintainable. Includes topics such as requirements engineering, software design, software quality (including reliability, safety, security and usability), software testing and analysis, software adaptation and evolution, software process and automation, and empirical software engineering.

The strategy for this Research Area recognises the high quality of research in the UK and the key underpinning role it has to play in several challenges of national importance.

By the end of the delivery plan period, we aim to have:

  • Increased UK capacity in software engineering to meet growing demands from several nationally important challenges, while maintaining a base of high-quality fundamental research at the core of the subject
  • A portfolio that plays a key role in enabling and supporting the foundation of new complex, open, scalable environments such as autonomous systems or an Internet of Things, requiring the strengthening of existing links with research areas such as Verification and Correctness, Artificial Intelligence Technologies and Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing. This contribution will be needed to achieve the aims set out as part of the Future Intelligent Technologies EPSRC cross-ICT priority (including development of reliable, adaptive technologies). It should include consideration of how developments in hardware can influence software engineering, particularly in complementary research areas such as Architectures and Operating Systems and Microelectronics Design
  • Researchers giving more consideration to cyber-security challenges and contributing to ongoing work driven by security issues; researchers in this area are critical to achieving the objectives of the Safe and Secure EPSRC cross-ICT priority, particularly in developing resilient software that can form the foundations of complex, unpredictable systems
  • Increased consideration of people and users in the field of software engineering, including those who build, maintain or use software, both experts and non-experts, and including industry. There are opportunities to take advantage of initiatives such as the Software Sustainability Institute (SSI), which could provide insight into the building and use of software in practice, and a need to include co-creative approaches to new software engineering techniques, in line with the People at the Heart EPSRC cross-ICT priority

There is a substantial level of high-quality software engineering research in the UK, demonstrated by strong representation of UK researchers at international conferences such as ICSE (International Conference on Software Engineering), FSE (Foundations of Software Engineering) and ASE (Automated Software Engineering). EPSRC recognises that software engineering supports many other areas of ICT and beyond. Although impacts arising from this research area are significant, they may sometimes be partially 'hidden' behind an associated application area.

Researchers in this area can continue to contribute to challenges posed by the world moving to complex, open systems and environments (e.g. autonomous systems and an Internet of Things), particularly around a need for research into new techniques for software to reliably adapt and learn. This will require work across the portfolio with researchers in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Verification and Correctness, and Pervasive and Ubiquitous Technologies. Engagement with the academic and user community has identified that further software engineering research is essential to future advances in cyber security (Evidence source 1).

Researchers in this area have significant impact on skills uptake in industry through undergraduate teaching and involvement in standards boards. Many disciplines rely on good-quality software. The SSI and Research Software Engineer Fellowships are encouraging translation of novel software engineering techniques into practical use across computational science and a range of disciplines, demonstrated by the co-funding of SSI by three Research Councils (EPSRC, BBSRC and ESRC) (Evidence source 2,3).

In terms of research training, there is a balanced portfolio between studentships and cohort-based training (Evidence source 4). There is high demand from industry for students trained in this area, demonstrated by a significant number of Industrial Cooperative Awards in Science & Engineering (CASE).

Although there is a range of EPSRC funding in this area, including programme grants and fellowships, there has been a reduction in the number of large groups and there are fewer UK leaders than in the past. The demands placed on researchers by the challenges described above therefore exceed their capacity to deliver (Evidence source 4,1).

This area contributes to all Outcomes but is most strongly to Connected and Resilient Nations, over a shorter timeframe. It is particularly relevant to the following Ambitions:

C4: Ensuring a safe and trusted cyber society

Development of reliable, robust and usable tools will require advances in software engineering.

C3: Deliver intelligent technologies and systems

Software engineering is expected to be a key contributor because it can enable uptake of intelligent technologies in complex systems.

R3: Develop better solutions to acute threats: cyber, defence, financial and health

Advances in software engineering will be necessary to anticipate and adapt to acute threats in systems.

  1. Community engagement (individual input, group feedback, team visits and evidence gathering) and input from the ICT Strategic Advisory Team, the UK Computing Research Council Executive Committee and Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 panellists (sub-panel 11).
  2. SSI, Measuring the Success of the Software Sustainability Institute (PDF), (2014).
  3. SSI, Research Software Sustainability (PDF), (2016).
  4. Analysis of EPSRC application and student data.

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC Support by Research Area in Software Engineering (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Michael Barclay
Job title: Portfolio Manager
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444544