The University of Southampton

ORCHID recognised for major collaboration

Published: 15 September 2016
Dr Ramchurn and the ORCHID team

The ORCHID project, a major research project involving the University of Southampton, took top prize in the data and connectivity category at the Collaborate to Innovate Awards this week. Organised by The Engineer – the UK’s longest running engineering publication – the awards were aimed at identifying some of the UK’s most impressive and innovative examples of engineering collaboration.

The ORCHID project tackled one of the key challenges in modern computer science – how humans and intelligent software systems can function together in a seamless and effective manner. The overall aim was to make sense of the volume, variety and constant stream of data that is available today from a myriad of resources such as phones, computers and sensors.

The £10m funded project (£5m from EPSRC with the rest from matched support from project partners) directly trained and employed 50 researchers and PhD students from the universities of Southampton, Oxford and Nottingham, together with industrial partners at BAE Systems, Secure Meters UK Ltd, Rescue Global and the Australian Centre of Field Robotics.

The project spawned 30 follow-on projects worth £15 million. It also established a new multi-disciplinary research community and initiated a range of start-up companies. For example, the researchers developed a device that provides users with a thermal analysis of their house to reduce their energy consumption. This technology was used in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake to save lives. ORCHID researchers mapped priority areas for water filters around Kathmandu as requested by Rescue Global. By using crowdsourced data, they were able to map settlements across the affected areas and identify aid and search and rescue priorities.

ORCHID co-investigator Dr Sarvapali Ramchurn, from Southampton’s Agents Research Group – the largest research group of its kind in the world – said: “This award is a great recognition of how great collaboration leads to great research outcomes. ORCHID brought together researchers from different disciplines to tackle really difficult challenges. I think the main reason this collaboration was so successful is because researchers learnt to trust each other’s methods and capabilities and we were all highly motivated to have an impact both in terms of producing high quality research terms and solving key real-world challenges.”

Dr Ramchurn and the ORCHID team will receive the award as part of The Engineer’s Collaborate to Innovate Conference, which will be held in Manchester in November.

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