Digital Catapult Fellowship Programme

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: School of Computer Science


University research into the 'Digital Economy' looks at the transformational impact that digital technologies can have on aspects of community life, cultural experiences, future society, and the economy. The Fellowship Programme proposed will enable researchers working in this area to spend time in the Digital Catapult, a national centre set up to accelerate the best digital ideas into new products and services. Within the Catapult, Fellows will work alongside technology companies and other user groups, to rapidly integrate their research with user needs in order to deliver actual technologies and products that can be adopted by users.

There will be two levels of Fellowship. Junior Fellows will be relatively early in their academic career, and be based in the Catapult full-time, taking forward their research interests within one of the Catapult's existing projects. Senior Fellows will be individuals with a long track record of relevant research. They will help to develop new Catapult projects and activities alongside their own research, on either a full-time or part-time basis. The Programme will have two calls for applications each year, and will award up to four fellowships each time.

Alongside the individual projects, Programme staff will run a range of events designed to give Fellows the chance to network with one another and share experiences. Events will also be used to promote the Programme, the benefits of working with the Catapult, and the broad impacts of Digital Economy-related research, to both the academic and the wider community. Each Fellow will have responsibility for producing a case study of their project; these will be important components in demonstrating the breadth of impacts of DE research, and the speed at which these result when academics and industry work in close collaboration with one another.

As a Programme, the Digital Catapult Fellowship Programme will support impact generation and user outreach within the DE Theme, while also supporting better integration across academic actors active in DE research, including DE Research hubs, DE Network+s, and research centres with strong DE research portfolios.

Planned Impact

The Digital Catapult Fellowship Programme will deliver impact across the breadth of DE research stakeholders (both existing and potential users), from Universities, to in particular the industrial and commercial communities, Government and the wider public.
Through enabling excellent junior and senior academics active in DE Theme based research to engage with the Digital Catapult and its industrial and commercial partners, the Fellowship Programme is designed to provide a direct route to impact for cutting edge DE research, to boost its adoption by users and maximise tangible real world benefits associated with the research. To ascertain the considerable potential of thusly increasing the speed to market and speed to use of DE research outputs, it is sufficient to consider the rapidly growing business and public discussion around the ever-increasing use of personal data (from Experian to the NHS).
Fostering strong engagement between DE researchers and users will lead to improved products and services in and beyond the UK, in turn increasing competitiveness of for example UK companies and putting the UK at the leading edge of the rapidly developing digital economy. The strong interdisciplinary track record of DE research will also enable users from both from the industrial/commercial and the institutional space to benefit directly through improved policies (e.g., around data privacy) both internally and externally.
The same engagement arising from the Fellowship Programme between DE researchers and users which will benefit the users will, at the same time, directly & positively impact the UK research base by informing and co-shaping the research agenda. The latter will support the delivery of high-quality, high-impact research and give the individual fellows (as well as their institutions and the UK research base generally) an edge over many of their peers, enabling career progression and future leadership.
Finally, the users, the researchers and the UK as a whole will benefit from increased communication and collaboration between users and research, resulting in long term extended impact and providing high-value return for the funds invested into the fellowship programme.


10 25 50
Description The programme supports a number of "Researcher in Residence" positions where researchers work with users to deliver impact.
Exploitation Route The impacts generated are widely disseminated on an ongoing basis and their very nature makes them suitable for wider update.
Sectors Agriculture

Food and Drink


Creative Economy

Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)


Security and Diplomacy



Description The project focused on facilitating and delivering impact by supporting leading Digital Economy researchers to work with research users through the Digital Catapult. The project was very successful, not only supporting 15 fellows throughout, but also providing the framework for the much larger cross-catapult fellowship program rolled out subsequently by RCUK.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Environment,Retail,Security and Diplomacy,Other
Impact Types Cultural



Policy & public services

Description I have been appointed as a co-chair of the international ad-hoc group on blockchain within JPEG international standardisation committee (ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC29/WG1).
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Description Pump Prime Award
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation Coventry University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 07/2018
Title Creeper 
Description Employees often change job role as their career progresses within an organisation. During a change of job role, it is usual for ad hoc permissions to be added to elevate the user's permission to a desired level, allowing them access to resources necessary to undertake their new role. Organisations often have systematic processes in place for assigning user permissions when a user is first created. However, elevating user privileges is often done by a system administrator who makes the change based on their experience and analysis. The manner in which privileges are elevated as employees change roles creates potential for users having many unnecessary and redundant permissions. In terms of file system permissions, this could be that a user has access to many resources that are no longer required under their current job role. The term associated with this phenomenon is permissions creep. Privilege creep is challenging to detect because the level of permission the user receives is sufficient for them to undertake their current job responsibilities and does not result in any concerns raised due to user in inconvenience. A traditional way to spot permissions creep is through manual auditing of file system permissions. However, the permissions are vast in terms of quantity and diversity and it can be difficult to identify a user who has unnecessarily elevated permissions. It is common knowledge that analysing file system permissions is a time-consuming task. A key limitation is on the knowledge-base of potential problems; when looking for instances of permissions creep it is difficult to determine beforehand what an instance of permissions creep may look like. The "Creeper" software project works by utilising an unsupervised machine learning technique to autonomously detect irregular permissions, which maybe representative of an instance of permissions creep. Rather than using a static knowledge-base of known problems to identify, Creeper uses machine learning techniques to determine whether a user's permissions are consistent with those of other users, or if they are irregular and warrant further investigation. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2018 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Large-scale empirical analysis demonstrated an accuracy of 96% when identifying instances of permissions creep in 292 file systems. These results are currently under peer-review. 
Description Conference panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Blades participated in a panel on dance, digitisation and ownership at the CORD/SDHS annual conference. This sparked discussion and led to new professional relationships.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Conference panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Participation in a panel on cultural heritage and copyright which led to discussion and requests for further information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Working group presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Research from Blades's Digital Catapult residency was shared with the Theatre and Performance Research Association performance and technology working group. This led to discussion and requests for further information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016