UK Research Strategy Community Organisation in Communications, Mobile Computing and Networking within the EPSRC ICT Portfolio (CommNet II)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Abstract

CommNet2 will bring together UK academics from the broad ICT space in order to derive and deliver a coherent national research programme that makes a real impact on the world stage. The increasingly complex multi-disciplinary engineering challenges associated with 5G and beyond, edge and core networking infrastructure, the Internet of Things (IOT), Data Analytics, Federated Cloud Fabric and the Tactile Internet necessitates a cross-disciplinary approach to research spanning knowledge sets from the underpinning fundamentals of materials through devices and subsystems to integrated systems, architectures and protocols. CommNet2 seeks to consolidate such an effort at the UK national scale to address the new challenges faced by society. Many of these challenges map against evolving EPSRC priorities for the IoT, Big Data Analytics, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Towards an Integrated Information Infrastructure, Complex Systems and Cognitive Computing, Security & Privacy and the emerging Research and Innovation Internet Environment. Mapped against the EPSRC ICT Theme Priorities, a three year programme of activities is proposed that include networking and training events; international research-horizon scanning; best practice challenge workshops and conferences; and opportunities for early career researchers.

The overarching aim of CommNet2 is to develop a robust framework in order to streamline and facilitate the academic innovation process towards delivering coherent and ground-breaking research directions shared by the communications and computer science disciplines to tackle 21st century ICT challenges. As a community driven response, the network will bring together academics from the electrical engineering, electronics, communications, networking, mathematics and computer science disciplines to achieve enhanced coordination of these researchers. Specifically, the network will create a vehicle enabling coordinated discussions and formulations of future research bids, activities and world-leading publications that establish internationally leading research activities.

CommNet2 will benefit the UK by: mobilising the UK's academic and industrial communities in the ICT space to undertake world-leading research programmes; providing younger ICT researchers with training and networking opportunities to develop into tomorrow's leaders; and building a strong, vibrant and cohesive community across the communications and computer science disciplines. The UK has long had global strength in the ICT arena. From pioneering mobile operators through to a rich heritage of start-ups and consultancies we have been at the forefront of wireless and wireline communications for decades. This reputation has led to innovation, continued inward investment from major global players and the establishment of important clusters around the UK, such as Cambridge, Shoreditch, Bristol and Northern Ireland, the Surrey 5GIC as well as the successful phases of the m-VCE. The advent of 5G, superfast broadband, the IoT, cloud computing and the Tactile Internet provides an opportunity to reinforce the UK's strengths in ICT. Through CommNet2, the academic community, by working closely with the relevant industry and organisations, will catalyse a step-change in ICT research for the benefit of society.

Planned Impact

CommNet2 will establish a mechanism to increase collaboration between academic institutions in the UK researching within the ICT field. The added value derived from this collaboration will be harnessed to accelerate impact by formulating focused, community shared and corroborated research programmes that address key research challenges of a national scale with international relevance. As ICT affects and involves us all, the network will have beneficially impact across multiple stakeholders as set out below.

First and foremost the network will benefit UK academics by enabling them to target high quality research with innovation stemming from collaboration and meetings with others. This will help build internationally leading research groups, establish cross university collaborations and result in publications in prestigious journals. Further, the network will pull through early career academics while helping to train researchers. These latter activities will help develop the academic leaders of the future by facilitating their careers. Collectively, this effort will strengthen and grow further the UK academic community in ICT making it more cohesive, proactive and internationally leading.

The Universities will benefit through achieving enhanced reputations attracting greater numbers of high quality STEM students, increased research funding, more IPR generation and more spin-out companies. The latter will help grow the UK's ICT industrial sector as well as attract more inward investment. Additional benefits are expected in respect of growing cross discipline research with significantly different fields that will increasingly rely on ICT technology (e.g. health care, transport, infrastructure, energy etc...). EPSRC will benefit by funding higher quality research proposals with stronger impact potential, less duplication and a more even distribution of funding across the UK's academic base.

The UK has a vibrant industrial ICT sector consisting of global vendors (e.g. Fujitsu, Huawei, NEC, Qualcomm, Sony, Thales etc...), network operators (e.g. BT, EE, Telefonica O2, Vodafone) and software companies (IBM, Microsoft, Google, Unisys) as well as significant related industries in defense (Chemring, Selex, Cobham), test & measurement (Keysight Technologies, Aeroflex), chip design (ARM, Freescale), and numerous SMEs and clusters. Many of these companies are world leading such as ARM whose IP globally dominates the processor market in mobile phones. Several of these companies will support CommNet2 directly (see our list of partners) and all will benefit from the enhance flow of new ideas, collaborative research and technology developments enabled by CommNet2. In addition to technology advancements, the approaches in CommNet2 will help formulate better joint industry/academic research as advocated by the Catapults thereby helping to translate advanced ICT research into wealth generation and societal solutions.

Finally, the UK Government and regulatory agencies will benefit through enabling new ways of interacting with citizens for enhanced efficiency through the rapid delivery of wireless technologies, IoT and big data solutions in areas such as smart cities. Regulators like Ofcom will benefit from an increased understanding of future communications technology direction and the ability to work through one organisation in order to influence research to fit regulatory goals. Ultimately, these efforts will enhance the productivity and lifestyles of UK citizens.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The main outcomes of this community network grant have been:
The establishment of a strong brand for undertaking research challenge workshops and PhD schools; The fostering of strong collegiate interactions within the communications and networking communities of UK academia; the fostering of international links with Korea and China in particular.
Exploitation Route CommNet2 has been well received by the academic community as providing an essential forum for technical discussions, networking to foster contacts and having the voice of the community heard within EPSRC and Industry. A CommNet3 community network is planned to build on the successes and best practices of CommNet2.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)

URL http://www.commnet.ac.uk
 
Description The outcomes of CommNet workshops both directly and indirectly influence members of the UK ICT community in communications and networking to submit proposals for funding to the EPSRC as well as other funding organisations, including industry. The FNRC workshop has directly influenced the development of this proposal for a national test-bed facility.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Economic

 
Description CommNet2 Partners 
Organisation NEC Corporation
Department NEC Telecom MODUS Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Please see the following field for further details on the nature of this partnership. All of the partners in CommNet, including NEC Telecom Modus, benefit from having the opportunity to review and discuss major developments relating to the UK's research roadmap in ICT relevant to communications and networking.
Collaborator Contribution NEC Telecom Modus LTD is one of several companies that contribute to the CommNet Advisory Board. As such, the CommNet management team benefit from the advice received from the Advisory Board and companies like NEC. which feedback and comment on best practice and event plans as well as alerting the Management Board to opportunities. In the case of NEC, these opportunities frequently relate to the develop of the 5G standard.
Impact The key outputs or products of CommNet have been workshops, which address future research challenges on topics strategic to the development of the UK's research in ICT focused on communications and networking.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Future Networks Research Centre Challenge Workshop, Adastral Park, Ipswich, UK, 7 March 2017. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Global Communications Industry is facing a growing range of challenges and opportunities like never before due to increased dependence on digital services. There is an ever increasing drive to reduce costs while delivering ever greater network capacity and intelligence, as well as dealing with increasing cyber-security and natural threats to critical national digital infrastructure and customer data. Add to this the flexibility and complexity implicit in the next generation of networks (fixed-mobile convergence at the lower stack layers, new virtual operator models, network aware/impacting devices and services, Cloud & Fog-Edge (FODGE) Computing, 5G, IoT, M2M), and it is clear that this is a critical national infrastructure issue that needs addressing at the appropriate scale. To address these issues, and to maintain the competitiveness and excellence of UK research and its wider impact, the creation of a UK Future Networks Research Centre (FNRC) is proposed as an independent national research and innovation centre supporting the discovery and development of novel fixed and wireless networking technologies and services. This workshop explored how the research community might use and govern such a facility.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://commnet.ac.uk/future-networks-research-centre-challenge-workshop/
 
Description 2nd UK-South Korea Collaboration Workshop, Jeju Island, Korea, 17-19 October 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A follow-up workshop from the event held in the UK on 14th February 2018, was organised in Korea as part of the 9th International Conference on ICT Convergence, Jeju Island, Korea, 17-19 October 2018. The purpose of the follow-up meeting was to exchange examples of current research activities on 5G within the UK and Korea. The workshop was attended by academics from Universities in the UK and Korea with significant activities in 5G research. Routes to funding research were also discussed. The funding agency in Korea wishes to pursue an international collaboration and is looking for the UK to complement its interests.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.wikicfp.com/cfp/servlet/event.showcfp?eventid=75020©ownerid=107060
 
Description COMMUNICATIONS & SIGNAL PROCESSING FOR 5G++, University of Durham, UK, 11 January 2018. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A recent European Signal Processing Society (EURASIP) position paper identified a number of signal processing challenges for communications beyond 5G. These include: exploiting domain knowledge in estimating channel state information; expanding coverage through satellites; utilizing quantum assisted design in solving computationally intensive optimisation problems; developing network assisted self-driving objects; designing inferential networks; exploiting visible light communications; promoting networked signal processing; and developing open-source tools. This event provided a forum for the UK communications and signal processing community to receive presentations on these and other related topics; to network and build collaborative teams to address these challenges.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://commnet.ac.uk/csp-for-5g/
 
Description CommNet Launch Event - Network Infrastructure and Resilience, IET Savoy Place, London, UK, 8 March 2016. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The launch event workshop focused on the broad topic of future "Network Infrastructure and Resilience". This topic was chosen to appeal to most ICT researchers while recognising that developments in internet and wireless technologies are presently challenged by security and resilience issues. During the workshop, attendees from academia and industry were allocated into groups of approximately 10, including a facilitator. Attendees identified, with their facilitator, the most important research challenges on this subject discussed potential solutions. Following a feedback and pitch by each facilitator, there was an opportunity over to collate outcomes into themes and to prioritise these. The community then discussed these priorities and our recommendations to EPSRC with our Expert Panel.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.commnet.ac.uk
 
Description CommNet2 PhD Winter School 2016, BT Research, Adastral Park, Ipswich, UK, 13th - 15th December 2017. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The CommNet2 Winter School, hosted by BT at the Adastral Park facility in Ipswich, was a 3 day residential event to inspire young researchers and innovators in ICT by: 1) giving them the opportunity to grow their personal networks across the ICT, Engineering and Computer Science disciplines; 2) informing them of the latest research and industrial applications of Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) and Massive MIMO; and 3) training them to think creatively about their own research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.cn2winterschool.group.shef.ac.uk/
 
Description CommNet2 Spring PhD School, 5GIC, University of Surrey, UK, 26-28 March 2018. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The 2nd CommNet2 PhD School bought together a diverse range of UK PhD students to focus on cutting edge developments in Wireless and IoT, and Cloud/Edge Security and to develop a network of young researchers. The School led to participation in the preparation of a Parliamentary brief for MPs on "Security of UK Telecommunications", Postnote Number 584 August 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://commnet.ac.uk/phd-spring-school/
 
Description Connected Infrastructure for the Future of Transportation Challenge Workshop, Transport Catapult, Milton Keynes, UK, 14th September 2016. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On 14.09.16, CommNet2, along with Transport Innovation Centre Sheffield (TICS) and the Transport Catapult hosted a workshop that brought together the academic and industrial communities engaged in Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) research and development. Delegates were invited to the Transport Catapult Innovation Centre in Milton Keynes for a packed scheduled that aimed to define and distill the major challenges facing CAV development.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://futuretransport.group.shef.ac.uk/
 
Description Energy Efficiency in Communications Networks - Joint 17th Mathematics of Networks (MoNs) Meeting and CommNet Workshop, University of Sheffield, UK, 20 September 2018. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This joint workshop was organised by CommNet and the Mathematics of Networks society (http://www.monmeetings.org/). The meeting gave researchers a forum to present new work which uses mathematics to investigate networks. The topic or focus of this meeting was energy efficiency in communications networks and followed on from the topics discussed in NGWIN 2018, which was held immediately before this meeting. The meeting encouraged interdisciplinary communication and talks been research practitioners in fields including computer networks, communications networks and signal processing for communications. The workshop led to being invited in the preparation of an EU-CELTIC proposal on the use of AI to manage future wireless networks efficiently.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://commnet.ac.uk/mon17-2018/
 
Description Future Advances on 5G Air-Interfaces, 5GIC, University of Surrey, UK, 22 February 2017. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact There is a general consensus that 5G wireless systems and beyond should support a diverse set of services and communications types, including extreme Mobile Broadband, ultra-reliable Machine-Type-Communications, as well as massive Machine Type-Communications. In addition, future air-interfaces should support a plethora of heterogeneous and diverse applications from "virtual reality offices" to "real-time remote computing" imposing a set of very challenging, and sometimes contradicting, requirements. Such requirements have been reported to include traffic volumes of up to 750Gbps per sq. km, experience end-user throughput values of several hundreds of Mbit/s, ultra-low latency down to 1 ms and reliability values of 99.999%. The event focused on advances on 5G Air-interface and how they can meet these demands.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://commnet.ac.uk/5g-air-interface-home/
 
Description Future Networks Workshop, Middlesex University, UK, 16 January 2017. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The success of the Internet has led to an explosion of new networks, from networks based around different physical technologies: 5G, Wi-Fi, and optical systems, to networks based around objects such as Internet of Things, Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, Intelligent Spaces and Smart Homes. How to manage such a diverse and heterogeneous networking environment is now an urgent issue that needs to be addressed. In addition, the number of applications that want to use these networks is rapidly expanding. Hence, in this new context, support for end-to-end security and dynamic Quality-of-Service management must also be provided. This workshop featured expert speakers on topics such as Software Defined Networking, Future Internet, 5G and Optical Networks as well as an afternoon discussion of these vital issues led by an expert panel.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.futurenetworks.group.shef.ac.uk/
 
Description International Symposium on Future ICT-2018, "5G Application Ecology and Technology Evolution," 27-28 November 2018, Beijing, China. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact CommNet was invited to participate by the Chinese Future Forum in Wireless Communications in order to discuss collaboration between the two organisations on 5G related research. The meeting between CommNet and academics from the Future Forum was hosted as part of the International Symposium on Future ICT-2018, "5G Application Ecology and Technology Evolution," 27-28 November 2018, Beijing, China. The parties agreed to maintain contact and to arrange a future visit to China to discuss formal collaboration between the organisations and the development of an MOU to guide interaction relating to research on future communications and networking.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.future-forum.org/en/
 
Description Joint 5th International Workshop on Next Generation Green Wireless Networks (NextGWiN 2018) and 3rd CommNet PhD School, University of Sheffield, UK, 17-19 September 2018. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Focusing on energy efficiency in 5G, Next-GWiN 2018 brought together distinguished speakers, from various academic and industrial institutions, and practising researchers. The workshop was targeted at novice and experienced researchers, PhD students, and R&D engineers from diverse fields with interests in energy efficient communications. Building on the experience of previous Next-GWiN conferences, the programme for Next-GWiN 2018 provided an in-depth and rich exchange of research findings and views in what is a rapidly evolving field of research. The workshop led to an invitation from Huawei to participate in the Future of Wireless Workshop, Stockholm, Sweden, June 2019. The two-day workshop was merged with the 3rd CommNet PhD School on Energy Efficient Communications. The event was hosted at the University of Sheffield.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.next-gwin.org/
 
Description Joint Workshop on Content Caching & Distributed Storage for Future Communication Networks, Imperial College, London, UK, 20 June 2017. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Future communication networks and wireless networks, in particular, will need to support extreme communication requirements, from increasing data rates to reduced latency, for a growing number of connected users and devices. Owing to the popularity of smartphones and tablets, a significant portion of the exponentially growing mobile data traffic today is due to video content delivery, and more strikingly, most of this traffic stems from a relatively small number of highly popular viral content. To exploit this particular characteristic, caching popular video contents at the network edge has emerged as a promising technique that can reduce both the backhaul traffic for network operators and the latency for wireless users.
This workshop brought together experts working on different aspects of this popular and exciting research area, spanning several layers of the communication network architecture and protocols, to inspire and initiate discussions on how content caching and distribution, and distributed storage can be best designed and exploited in future communication networks.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://commnet.ac.uk/icore-cn2-joint-workshop/
 
Description Positive Collaboration Research for Early Career Academics Networking Event, University of Edinburgh, UK, 5 April 2018. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Early career academics (ECA), by definition, are more likely to have a smaller professional network and are therefore less likely to be involved in big collaborative research and multi-partner research projects. There are also very limited opportunities available to ECA to broaden their research network beyond the often topic-specific technical events like conferences. Moreover, addressing the contemporary information and communication research challenges of society requires a concerted effort across very many research themes and expertise. This networking event aimed to foster and promote collaborative and synergetic research amongst early/mid-career academics in Wireless and Optical/Photonic Networking (including Photonic devices) and involved an excellent line-up of experienced academics to impart their advice and to help build links between early and established career academics. This was also a dedicated workshop to establish a diverse professional network that will function post-event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://commnet.ac.uk/positive-collaborative-research-for-eca/
 
Description THz Electronics Workshop, University of Glasgow, UK, 23-24 April 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Terahertz (THz) Electronics Workshop brought together practicing scientists and engineers from around Europe to share their latest research work on THz electronics technologies. The focus of the workshop was on resonant tunnelling diode (RTD) technologies but also covered a wide range of other solid-state THz electronics technologies. The workshop was organised by the YHz research group at the University of Glasgow, UK, and was sponsored by CommNet.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.commnet.ac.uk/event-alert-thz-electronics-workshop/
 
Description TI3 Project Workshop, Royal Society London, UK, 8 September 2017. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This event brought together researchers in the field of "Towards an Intelligent Information Infrastructure" (TI3) and included presentations from six key TI3 projects. Project members presented key research findings, gave demonstrations of their work and exchanged knowledge with the wider research community. The following topics were covered during the day: Future Communications and Networks; Software Defined Networking; Fifth Generation Wireless Networks; Network Security and Threats Detection; Data Science and Analytics; and Extracting knowledge from large data sets.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://commnet.ac.uk/t13-project-workshop/
 
Description UK-South Korea Collaboration Workshop, 5GIC, University of Surrey, UK, 14 February 2018. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The purposes of this workshop were to gather interests from UK universities for UK-Korea collaboration on 5G, and show the funding agencies from both countries the potential fruitful outcome for a UK-Korea joint call. The workshop led to an invitation to give an invited paper at the iCTC, 17-19 October 2018, Jeju Island, Korea.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://commnet.ac.uk/uk-sk-collaborationworkshop/
 
Description Workshop on Machine Learning for Cybersecurity, 11th March 2019, Loughborough University, UK. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The aim of the workshop was to bring together practitioners and researchers from both academia and industry to present and discuss current and future research directions on cybersecurity. The main focus of the workshop was on the use of machine learning for cybersecurity and also provided broad coverage of topics related to wireless networks, content caching, vehicular ad hoc networks, IoT and Big Data. The workshop was sponsored by CommNet and the Gulf Science, Innovation and Knowledge Economy Programme of the UK Government under the UK-Gulf Institutional Link Grant.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.lboro-ml-workshop.com/