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EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics & Autonomous Systems (MScR)

Course Description

Research profile

Robots have the potential to revolutionise society and the economy, working for us, beside us, and interacting with us. This EPSRC-sponsored programme will produce graduates with the technical skills and industry awareness to create an innovation pipeline from academic research to global markets.

The robotics and autonomous systems area has been highlighted by the UK Government in 2013 as one of the eight Great Technologies that underpin the UK's Industrial Strategy for jobs and growth. Key application areas include manufacturing, assistive and medical robots, offshore energy, environmental monitoring, search and rescue, defence, and support for the ageing population.

The University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University are jointly offering this innovative four-year PhD training programme, which combines a strong general grounding in current theory, methods and applications with flexibility for individualised study and a specialised PhD project.

Robotics and autonomous systems are increasingly studied beyond the range of classical engineering. Today robots represent one of the main areas of application of computer science and provide challenges for mathematics and natural science.

It is impossible to imagine transportation, warehousing, safety systems, space and marine exploration, prosthetics, and many other areas of industry, technology and science without robots. Robots are used in theoretical biology and the neurosciences as a model of behaviour.

Areas of interest specific to the center include: movement control, planning, decision making, bio- and neurorobotics, human-robot interaction, healthcare applications, robot soccer, neuroprosthetics, underwater robotics, bipedal walking, service robots, robotic co-workers, computer vision, speech processing, computer animation realistic simulations, and machine learning.

Training and support

Our four-year PhD programme combines Masters level coursework and project work with independent PhD-level research.

In the first year, you will undertake four or five masters level courses, spread throughout robotics, machine learning, computational neuroscience, computer architectures, statistics, optimization, sensorics, dynamics, mechanics, image processing, signal processing, modelling, animation, artificial intelligence, and related areas. You will also undertake a significant introductory research project. (Students with previous masters-level work in these areas may request to take less courses and a larger project.)

At the end of the first year, successful students will be awarded an MSc by Research by the University of Edinburgh. From this basis, the subsequent three years will be spent developing and pursuing a PhD research project, under the close supervision of your primary and secondary supervisors. The PhD will be awarded jointly by the University of Edinburgh and the Heriot-Watt University.

You will have opportunities for three to six month internships with leading companies in your area, and to participate in our industrial engagement programme, exchanging ideas and challenges with our sponsor companies.

Throughout your studies, you will participate in our regular programmes of seminars, short talks and brainstorming sessions, and benefit from our pastoral mentoring schemes.

Our user partners in industry include companies working in offshore energy, environmental monitoring, defence, assisted living, transport, advanced manufacturing and education. They will provide the real world context for research, as well as opportunities for reciprocal secondments, internships and involvement in our industrial engagement programme.

The School of Informatics holds a Silver Athena SWAN award, in recognition of our commitment to advance the representation of women in science, mathematics, engineering and technology. The School is deploying a range of strategies to help female staff and students of all stages in their careers and we seek regular feedback from our research community on our performance.


You will have access to the outstanding facilities in the Edinburgh Robotarium, a national facility for research into robot interaction, supporting the research of more than 50 world-leading investigators from 17 cross-disciplinary research groups.

Research groups at the Edinburgh Robotarium include humanoid movement control, underwater, land and airborne autonomous vehicles, human robot interaction, bio- and neuro-robotics, and planning and decision making in multirobot scenarios.

In addition, our research groups contain a diverse range of compute clusters for compute and data-intensive work, including a large cluster hosted by the Edinburgh Compute and Data Facility.

Career opportunities

Our aim is to produce innovation-ready graduates who are skilled in the principles of technical and commercial disruption and who understand how finance and organisation realise new products in start-up, SME and corporate situations.

We intend for our graduates to become leaders in the globally emerging market for autonomous and robotic systems that reduce risk, reduce cost, increase profit and protect the environment. This vision is shared by our industrial supporters, whose support for our internship programme indicates their strong desire to find highly qualified new employees.

Our component research groups already have excellent track-records in post-graduation destinations, including the research labs of industry-leading companies, and post-doctoral research positions in top tier universities.

Entry Requirements

You should have a good first degree in computer science, mathematics, physics, engineering, or a related discipline. Applicants coming directly from a Bachelors or Masters degree are welcome.

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Recipient: University of Edinburgh
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