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UK ICT researchers recognized by EPSRC awards

10 Nov 2015

Photonics technologies dominate university research competition; won by Jonathan Roberts, of Lancaster University.

Jonathan Roberts from Lancaster University, UK, has been named overall winner of this year’s UK ICT Pioneers competition for his research Nano-Identification: Fingerprints of the Future. Having won the “Future ICT” category, Roberts went on to triumph overall following a competitive elevator pitch presentation to claim the £3,000 ($4500) prize.

UK ICT Pioneers is a partnership between the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and key stakeholders that aims to recognize the most exceptional UK doctoral students working in ICT-related topics.

The announcement was made at an exhibition and awards ceremony held last week in London. Industry judges and sponsors of the competition were from; the EPSRC, the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Facebook, the British Computing Society, Samsung and BT. Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of EPSRC, who presented the prizes, commented, “ICT Pioneers showcases the best work produced by UK PhD students. It's awarded to students who can demonstrate the excellence and commercial potential of their work.”

Quantum technology

Overall winner Roberts is a PhD student at EPSRC’s NOWNANO Doctoral Training Centre, a research collaboration between Lancaster University and the University of Manchester. “My invention uses next-generation quantum technology to uniquely identify any product," he said. "It addresses two problems - it can solve the problem of counterfeit products which happens in many different sectors including the fashion, automotive and pharmaceutical industries.

“Secondly, it addresses the problem of how you spot the difference between real and fake devices that are communicating over a network. Imagine taking a fake drug using the wrong ingredients or having a self-driving car communicating with a hacked server. Both could put people's lives at risk so security is essential.

“My invention involves the creation of devices with unique identities on a nano-scale employing state-of-the-art quantum technology. Each device will be unique and 100 per cent impossible to copy. I've created an optical identity using graphene and an electronic identity. We're now working towards measuring these devices with a smart phone set-up so you can authenticate any device at any point in the supply chain."

Photonics focus

Out of the 15 finalists from universities across the UK, almost half of the projects were photonics-focused or significantly dependent on related technologies:

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor tooptics.org.

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