EPSRC-Eligible and EU applicants

Below, we list PhD topics for EPSRC-Eligible and EU applicants only. For overseas applicants see here

To be EPSRC-Eligible for a full award, an applicant must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship (with some further constraint regarding residence for education).

For further details see EPSRC Student Eligibility guide or contact Anne Murphy. 


Haptic Feedback System for Robots in Harsh Environments

Project number: 
To develop a haptic feedback system for robots operating in harsh environments (e.g., space and nuclear)
Prof. Tughrul Arslan
University of Edinburgh

Space and nuclear robots are exposed to significant amounts of radiation which can lead to errors and system-crippling failures with great losses in economy.

The limited human intervention for safe operation necessitates the need for a remotely connected haptic feedback system to aid human-robot interactions.

A dandelion-inspired drone: how to translate natural flyer ability of passive hovering to enhance drone endurance

Project number: 
This proposal builds on our recent discoveries, published in Nature (https://edin.ac/385DnRY) that reveal how the dandelion fruit can fly unpowered for hundreds of kilometres. In contrast, similar-size manmade drones have an endurance of few minutes. This PhD project aims to develop a deeper understanding of how the dandelion exploits wind gusts to remain airborne and to translate our insights from biology into the design of a new family of centimetre-scale drones with a step-change increase in the flight range and endurance.
Dr. Ignazio Maria Viola
University of Edinburgh

In the next decade, distributed sensor network systems made of insect-scale flying sensors will enable a step change in monitoring natural disasters and remote areas. They will contribute to protecting the environment by providing data on the contamination of physical and biological systems and on the impact of human activities. To date, a key limitation of this technology is that small drones such as the robobee can remain airborne only for few tens of minutes.

Fabrication of Small-Scale Untethered Soft Magnetic Robots

Project number: 
To design and fabricate magnetically-actuated miniature soft robots.
Dr. Morteza Amjadi
Heriot-Watt University

Small-scale soft robots have great potentials in bioengineering (e.g., biosensing and cell manipulation) and healthcare (e.g., targeted drug delivery and minimally invasive surgery). Given their soft and untethered nature, such robots can negotiate obstacles, generate complicated manoeuvres, and pass through unstructured environment.

Fabrication of Soft Robotic Electronic Skin (E-Skin)

Project number: 
To design and develop stretchable e-skin for wearable and soft robotic applications, utilising novel digital manufacturing process.
Dr. Morteza Amjadi
Heriot-Watt University

Soft e-skins have recently attracted considerable research interest due to their applications in soft robotics, prosthetics, and artificial skins. Remarkable advances in materials science, nanotechnology, and biotechnology have led to the development of various e-skins capable of detecting different external stimuli, such as strain, pressure, temperature, hydration, and biomarkers.

Teaching Robots to Plan

Project number: 
To develop and implement methods for instructing robots directly through natural language, where the instructions refer to temporally extended plans executed on physical robots (e.g., object manipulation)
Dr. Subramanian Ramamoorthy
University of Edinburgh

The vast majority of applications of robots do not involve just one isolated task (such as grasping an object) but instead carefully choregraphed sequences of such tasks, with dependencies between tasks not just in terms of what comes after what but also how the previous task should be performed (in a quantitative sense at the level of motor control) in order to set up for the next. Moreover, there are numerous subjective variables in these tasks, e.g., how close should it come to a delicate object or how hard should it pull on a cable?

Robots Safe and Secure by Construction

Project number: 
Verified implementation of machine-learning components of autonomous systems
Dr. Ekaterina Komendantskaya
Heriot-Watt University

Robotic applications spread to a variety of application domains, from autonomous cars and drones to domestic robots and  personal devices. Each application domain comes with a rich set of requirements such as legal policies, safety and security standards, company values, or simply public perception. They must be realised as verifiable properties of software and hardware. Consider the following policy: a self-driving car must never break the highway code.

Learning Dexterous Robotic Manipulation

Project number: 
Learning autonomous grasping and manipulation skills that are safe to be deployed in human environment with data-efficient deep reinforcement learning and human-robot skill transfer
Dr. Zhibin Li
University of Edinburgh


A large variety of robotic applications strongly involve handling various objects as the core process for task completion. To date, most of these jobs are still performed by people. Although some are automated by robots, those solutions primarily rely on pre-designed rules or tele-operation (limited operational time due to cognitive overload), which unavoidably limits the performance in changing environments. This project consists of multiple challenging research topics in robotic manipulation.

Project description

Deep Analysis: A Critical Enabler to Certifying Robotic and Autonomous Systems

Project number: 
Develop techniques that assist in certifying robotic and autonomous systems through a deep analysis at the level of requirements, problem worlds and specifications.
Prof. Andrew Ireland
Heriot-Watt University

Safety critical robotic and autonomous systems, such as Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) that operate beyond visual line of sight, require the highest level of certification. Certifiers are concerned with how such systems behave within their environment – as defined by system wide requirements, e.g. compliance with the rules-of-the-air (i.e. SERA).   In contrast, software developer’s focus on specifications - how the system software should behave based upon operational modes and input signals. Many catastrophic system failures, e.g.

3D vision and robotic navigation using Event and Polarisation Cameras

Project number: 
The project will explore the use of emerging imaging modalities such as even and polarisation cameras to perform 3D vision in very dynamic, complex and un-textured environment where classical approaches fail in general.
Prof. Yvan Petillot
Heriot-Watt University

Optical cameras have been very successfully used for 3D vision and robotic navigation in texture rich environments and good visibility conditions. However, they have strong limitations in more complex scenarios where the environment is either very dynamic or visibility is poor. In this thesis, you will explore new sensor modalities and how they can help solve these problems.