Researchers in Residence
Our Researchers in Residence (RIR) activity is part of our academic engagements programme and is designed to enable leading academics to spend research visits in one or more Catapult centres. Each RIR undertakes a project that generates impact from research. Projects must be strategic in nature and aligned with one of the challenge areas identified by the Catapults, and also drive the creation of new activities or projects relevant to the overall mission of the host Catapult. As well as increasing knowledge exchange and co-creation between academia and the Catapults they nurture the talents and skills development of researchers and Catapult staff.
The aims of the RIR initiative are to:
- Accelerate the impact of Research Council funded research
- Increase knowledge exchange and co-creation between academia and Catapult centres
- Develop new collaborations between academia and Catapult centres
- Expand the capabilities and knowledge of the Catapults
- Nurturing talents and skills development of researchers and Catapult staff
- Create a cohort of RIRs able to share their experiences with a wider network of academics.
The residencies were designed to be flexible to make the opportunity accessible regardless of where an individual was based, researchers could work full-time for shorter periods or part-time for longer periods.
For the researchers, participating in the programme increases the potential impact of their work by connecting them more directly with industry. Having access to Satellite Applications Catapult’s extensive networks and stakeholders has also led to ongoing relationships and opportunities such as consultancy contracts, fellowships, and funding.
Dr Daniel Oi: Satellite Quantum Key Distribution (2019-2023)
Dr Daniel Oi is a Senior Lecturer specialising in Quantum Information at the University of Strathclyde. His research interests span fundamental aspects of quantum theory, quantum engineering, the theory of quantum computation, and quantum space science and technologies.
Daniel works as a Researcher in Residence at Satellite Applications Catapult to assist the translation of lab research into industrial practice at the early stages of quantum technology. Secure communication is vital and current public key encryption methods are under threat from quantum computation. By utilising the physics of light, quantum key distribution (QKD) can protect communication links against eavesdropping and computational attacks. However, QKD using optical fibre has limited range (a few 100 km at best).
Satellites have been proposed as an alternate platform for securely connecting the world and satellite QKD (SatQKD) is now being developed. A key part the RiR work is to look at enabling wide-spread adoption of SatQKD technologies and services. This is through identifying a roadmap that charts the development of key components, capabilities, and implementations that establishes short-, mid-, and long-term prospects.
An early achievement was the award of the Innovate UK funded Viable Satellite Free Space Optical Quantum Key Distribution Technologies (ViSatQT) project that includes a range of UK companies (large and small), as well as academic (University of Strathclyde) and public organisations (the Satellite Applications Catapult). Led by Airbus, ViSatQT will explore a range of advanced SatQKD concepts and technologies and aims to integrate them into conventional optical communications systems that are increasingly built into satellites.
The RiR project will continue to engage UK industry to develop a secure supply chain for satellite quantum communications that will serve as the basis for further space quantum technologies spanning positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT), Earth observation (EO), and the quantum internet.
Dr Eloise Marais: Improving Air Quality in Cities (2017-2020)
Dr Eloise Marais is an Associate Professor in Physical Geography at University College London. Her expertise is in air quality monitoring and modelling, Earth observations, and big data analytics.
Eloise worked as a Researcher in Residence at Satellite Applications Catapult and Connected Places Catapult, developing the end user tool TRACE (Tool for Recording and Assessing the City Environment) to enhance capacity to monitor air quality in cities throughout the world. Air pollution impacts city sustainability and the health of people living there. Cities that have the resources to monitor air quality do this by placing a few air pollutant instruments around the city. There are limits to where and how many instruments can be distributed across a city. This approach also does not tell us about city-wide trends in pollution to detect degradation in air quality due to rapid development or to evaluate the efficacy of air quality policy and the accuracy of inventories and other tools developed and used by government agencies and environmental consultants.
Satellite observations offer a unique opportunity to monitor air quality, but these are challenging to use without advanced expertise. TRACE addresses this shortcoming by transforming Earth Observations of atmospheric composition into information about air quality by making use of the extensive global and decades-long record of Earth observations. TRACE is being developed in close consultation with end users in UK city councils, DEFRA, and data analytics companies. This project was selected in 2018 as Finalist of the Copernicus Masters Challenge and Dr Marais subsequently participated in the Copernicus Accelerator programme.
Successful follow-on funding includes a Defra Clean Air Grant working with Leicester City Council to understand the sources that contribute to air pollution in Leicester, and a Defra-funded collaboration with the UK National Centre for Earth Observation to quantify air pollutant emissions from agriculture that impact air quality in cities. Furthermore, a publication was submitted, to the high-impact journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), reporting on drastic increases (>10% per year) in urban population exposure to pollutants hazardous to health in fast-growing tropical future megacities.
Dr Steven Reece: Accelerating the exploitation of Earth Observation data through Machine Learning (2018-2020)
Dr Steven Reece is a Senior Research Associate at University Oxford in the Department of Engineering Science. His research involves developing novel techniques and computer software for finding patterns in data, combining multiple sources of data, and correcting errors in data. Steven applies his expertise in data analytics to disaster management and conservation applications.
Steven worked as a Researcher in Residence at Satellite Applications Catapult to identify opportunities to work with commercial partners on novel applications of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). AI and ML have huge potential for projects that use satellite data, particularly when the resulting information is required with low-latency and high-cadence. It can provide a cost-effective solution to generating geospatial intelligence, which includes disaster management applications where they can analyse huge volumes of information produced immediately after an event by non-specialist volunteers.
During the RiR, for EASOS’s Marine Watch application, Steven developed a tool to model the dispersion of an oil slick backwards in time. Combined with vessel tracking data, this will enable government agencies to identify the most likely polluter, leading to increased fines and potentially reducing the number of polluting incidents by acting as a deterrent. This RiR programme also had projects which received significant interest from commercial and non-governmental organisations, specifically around wide-area satellite imagery analysis, asset mapping, identifying natural hazard threats to infrastructure and also mapping habitat loss and threats to bio-diversity.
Combining the commercial and developmental expertise of the Satellite Applications Catapult with Steven’s technical expertise and other partners led to several successful joint funding bids to the UKSA, Innovate UK and private funders.
Dr Robert Houghton
Dr Robert Houghton is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham. His expertise is in Human Factors research and specialises in cognitive and systems ergonomics relevant to topics such as digital economy services, distributed decision making, and the development of mobile technology.
Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) offer a range of future of exciting opportunities, not just as a new form of transport modality but also a potentially transformative one that may change how we work and live, whilst also enhancing safety and supporting more sustainable travel. Much of the research and development has been focused on how the CAV senses and navigates its external environment and how vehicles may be organised and controlled.
This project takes a slightly different line in that it considers what could be sensed within the cabin of the vehicle to offer reassurance and safety to passengers (especially in a scenario of shared use) while also protecting the asset itself and ideally generating data that can be used to further enhance future design and service operation.