Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Control engineering

Encompasses theories, methodologies and tools for modelling, analysis, design and optimisation of self-regulating systems, with an emphasis on uncertainty and robustness of feedback systems. This research area underpins a number of others across the engineering and physical sciences research base.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This area encompasses theories, methodologies and tools for modelling, analysis, design and optimisation of self-regulating systems, with an emphasis on uncertainty and robustness of feedback systems.

A control system uses sensor measurements to monitor a system’s behaviour and generate or apply feedback to the system-appropriate control actions, to achieve the desired performance. Such systems are ubiquitous in natural and engineered systems, for example, in:

  • aerospace
  • automotive
  • energy
  • manufacturing
  • robotics
  • intelligent mobility and transportation
  • communications
  • biology
  • biotechnology and healthcare
  • power electronics
  • smart grids
  • wind turbines
  • chemical processing.

New research challenges include analysis and design of large-scale, complex, heterogeneous and distributed systems, including those with humans in the loop. This research area underpins a number of others across the engineering and physical sciences research base.

Delivering a community-owned strategy

Although control engineering underpins a number of research areas, to date there has been no overarching community-driven research strategy. We will work proactively with the community to deliver a community owned research strategy which seeks to elevate its presence in the wider engineering and physical sciences community.

We will work with the community to understand and address, where possible, any leadership or related skills challenges, particularly in relation to early career researchers, to support the future sustainability of control engineering within the UK.

Specifically, we aim to have a community that seeks to establish greater communication at a strategic level in order to foster collaboration on fundamental and applied research challenges. This will enable a greater focus on the balance between developing new fundamental control theory and the use of existing control theories in new application areas.

We also aim to investigate how control engineers can increase awareness of the research area amongst the wider community and industry, to enable better engagement of underpinning control expertise at the outset. In this way, we can maximise the potential impact from other research areas through informed design at an early stage, similar to how medical engineers engage with clinicians at a project’s outset to ensure results’ relevance to end users. In conjunction with a focus on major research challenges for example in aerospace and automotive and energy, this will maximise the resulting impact.

Why we're doing it

Control engineering research is critical to the success of numerous engineering applications and underpins areas including power electronics, smart grids, wind turbines, aerospace, automotive, chemical processing, robotics, and manufacturing.

Research in this area has declined relative to the overall EPSRC portfolio, contradictory to the planned trajectory. Direct action and community ownership are needed to ensure no further decline.

Training is supported through associated centres for doctoral training, although none are specific to control engineering, and allocations through the Doctoral Training Partnership. While the community does not use centralised facilities, as capital requirements vary based on research needs, each research group has access to (often unique) facilities within their department to meet their requirements.

Overall, control engineering supports developments in multiple disciplines within EPSRC’s remit with strong links to:

It plays an implicit role across the whole EPSRC portfolio. There is a need to ensure that novel control engineering is embedded accordingly into core application areas. Greater coordination and capability within the academic community will be required to realise these and other opportunities, for example those across priority research areas such as robotics and quantum technologies.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for Control engineering.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Eirini Kokkali, Portfolio Manager, Control engineering

Email: eirini.kokkali@epsrc.ukri.org

Engineering team

Email: engineeringteam@epsrc.ac.uk

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