SICSA celebrates positive outcomes from SFC independent review

The Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA) is welcoming the publication of a positive report on the last decade of their research, policymaking and industrial partnerships.

The full report can be found at the Scottish Funding Council.

Along with an overview of all other projects supported by the pooling initiative, the Independent Review of the Scottish Funding Council’s Research Pooling Initiative, published today (Tuesday October 1), provides an overview of the SFC’s programme to strengthen Scottish higher education by combining resources to compete more effectively on the world stage.

Along with an overview of all other projects supported by the pooling initiative, the review document and evidence presented offers praise for numerous areas of SICSA’s activities, including:

  • research theme leaders in AI’s contribution to the AI strategy for Scotland
  • sustained engagement with the trade-body and cluster management organisation for digital technologies in Scotland (ScotlandIS)
  • the establishment of the SICSA Cyber Nexus for Cyber Security

Strong representation in Scottish Computing Science education, including the Scottish Government Digital Skills: Industry – Education and Training Strategy board, CodeClan, Digital Skills Partnership and SQA Computing Qualifications steering group.

SICSA is a world-leading collaboration of Scottish university departments of computer science and informatics across 14 universities, with a base at the University of Glasgow. Since 2008, SICSA has been supported by £98m in human and capital investment from the University sector and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC)

The review highlights SICSA’s notable performance in competitively awarded research income. The Alliance generated £317m, which represents 18% of the UK total, second only to the South East of the UK’s 19%.

Professor Aaron Quigley is Chair of Human Computer Interaction at the University of St Andrews and director of SICSA. He said: “We’re delighted by the results of the independent review published today. Since it was established more than 10 years ago, SICSA has grown its membership to sustain and expand Scotland’s research excellence in informatics and computer science, and we’ve worked hard to improve the quality of research across Scotland by pooling and sharing expertise and access to resources. We also work hard to promote the transfer of research results to benefit companies and the public sector in Scotland.

“Many aspects of computing in human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence and data science were pioneered here in Scotland, and we have a world-class reputation for excellence in computing science.

“By expanding our research and improving its quality, between the national Research Assessment Exercise in 2008 and the Research Excellence Framework in 2014, our citation impact grew by over 20% while our international collaboration on publications grew by over 30%, which was amongst the highest growth of any of the research pools. Along with a 21% increase in SICSA publication activity, ahead of other regions in the UK, SICSA has developed what was already an excellent research environment and has leveraged it for national advantage, to create a vibrant university community that represents all aspects of Scottish informatics and computer science.“

Another major SICSA effort, the planning and establishment of the Data Lab, is also singled out for attention in the review. The Data Lab, established in 2013, brings together SICSA, ScotlandIS and the Scottish Technology Advisory Group and 27 companies to help Scottish industry benefit from data science.

The report notes that ‘the relationship between The Data Lab and SICSA appears to work well, aided by the fast innovation cycle time between research and industry in this space’.

Gillian Docherty OBE, CEO of The Data Lab, said: “The Data Lab which was brought to life by efforts of SICSA and other Scottish stakeholders, now has hubs in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen, but covers academic engagement all across Scotland, and with 14 University partners.

“On a weekly basis, The Data Lab works with the SICSA team and members on activity and support which enables us to have significant and deep engagement with academia in Scotland. Our natural synergies means we can leverage SICSAs capability in terms of their networks into the breadth of the universities here, across Europe and beyond. SICSA has helped us build a world class centre in data innovation, which is delivering a step-change in the way universities work with Industry and the public sector for economic, social and scientific benefit.”

Professor Muffy Calder, Vice-Principal and Head of College of Science and Engineering at the University of Glasgow, said: “SICSA has impacted our own community of researchers, for example programs of support (e.g. PhD conference and bursaries) that began with collaborative SICSA PhD studentships, has now been extended to the whole PhD student population in Scotland. And further, the SICSA research community has supported and helped develop new government policy, for example in Computing Science Education at School and an AI Strategy for Scotland. The report represents an exciting opportunity for SICSA and the academic computer science community to play a key role in the review’s ambitious vision for research pooling in the years ahead.”

There are 96,000 people employed in the technology sector across Scotland (ONS 2017). Computation underpins the future economic success of Scotland with a 38% growth rate projected for the 5 years ahead. Per head, the technology sector generates 40% higher Gross Value Add (GVA) than for the economy as a whole, making it a considerable contributor to Scotland’s economy. Tapping into the skills base here, JP Morgan, Barclays Wealth, KPMG and Lloyds have recently announced 4,200 new jobs in the next two years alone.

Reflecting on the change SICSA has brought to the academic landscape, Dr Polly Purvis OBE, CEO  of ScotlandIS, said: “SICSA is a great ‘front door’ into the wealth of exceptional research the Scottish universities offer, enabling much easier access for industry and providing a unique mechanism to enable ScotlandIS as the membership organisation for digital technologies to liaise with all our universities in a streamlined way.”

Chris van der Kuyl, chairman of Dundee-based game development studio 4J Studios said: “The Independent Review of the Scottish Funding Council’s Research Pooling Initiative has emphasised the success of the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA). While the research income, publications and quality of work show the top market share for the discipline in the UK and Europe, it’s the change in the national technology sector we must focus on. Our world-leading Scottish universities produce the technology graduates with the skills and talent required to power our future economic success. To ensure we prepare for an evermore computationally driven economy, investment is needed to ensure SICSA forms the foundation for Scotland’s research powerhouse of the future.”

November 4th sees the 12th year of the SICSA DemoFest: Bringing Research to Life. This is the largest event of its kind in Scotland, showcasing the very best of Informatics and Computing Science research, and engaging the business community to highlight opportunities for innovation.

Startup Zone at DemoFest 2019 – Call for Applications

DemoFest: Bringing Research to Life

4th November 2019, 4.00pm – 7.00pm at Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh.

DemoFest is SICSA’s signature knowledge exchange event, showcasing the very best of Informatics and Computing Science research from all of Scotland’s Universities. The largest event of its kind in Scotland, DemoFest attracts a mix of more than 300 participants, including software industry practitioners, researchers and investors from Scotland and beyond. The evening comprises a unique mix of cutting-edge research exhibits, keynote talks from high profile leaders in technology innovators and informal networking.

This year, to supplement our showcase of academic research, we are inviting applications for participation in DemoFest from the vibrant and emerging tech startup scene across Scotland. Startup founders will benefit from showcasing their cutting edge businesses to potential investors and customers from across the software industry, as well as an opportunity to seek new collaborations and talent from academia.

Successful applicants will receive:

• Free showcase space within the main DemoFest exhibition, including desk, display space and power.

• Exclusive invitation to the DemoFest networking event for exhibitors and keynote speakers.

• Two invitations to extend to investors, customers or other partners for your startup to attend the exhibitor only networking event.

How to Apply

Applicants should complete a short online application:

The deadline for applications is the 31st of August.

For more advice on the application process or if you have any questions please contact the SICSA Knowledge Exchange Team:

Welcome to our new Director, Professor Aaron Quigley

Welcome to Professor Aaron Quigley of the University of St Andrews, who assumes the role of SICSA Director today.

Aaron brings a wealth of experience to the role at an important time for SICSA as we look towards 2020.  You can contact Aaron at

Also, our thanks go to Professor Rod Murray-Smith, who has provided crucial support for SICSA as acting-Director since February 2019.

Welcome to new Research Theme Leader for Theory, Modelling and Computation

SICSA extends a warm welcome to Dr Lilia Georgieva (Heriot Watt University) who takes over co-leadership of the SICSA Theory, Modelling and Computation research theme this month.  Along with Clemens Kupke (University of Strathclyde), Lilia will be responsible for leading the theme for the next two years.

Thanks go to Dr Ekaterina Komendantskaya for her role in co-leading the theme in recent years.

For more information about the theme or to get involved in organising theme activities or events, please visit SICSA Theory, Modelling and Computation.


SICSA PhD Conference 2019 – Prize Winners

Congratulations to all of the prize winners at the SICSA PhD Conference 2019 in Stirling!

They are:

SICSA PhD Research Competition 
  • 1st Year Winner: Jacob König (GCU): ‘Deep Learning Surface Crack Segmentation’
  • 2nd Year Winner: Ryan Gibson (University of Strathclyde): ‘Using Tablet Technologies to Promote Communication Between Adults with Mild Learning Disabilities and General Practitioner’
  • 3rd Year Winner: Sofiat Olaosebikan (University of Glasgow): ‘Algorithmic Results on the Student-Project Allocation Problem
  • People’s Choice Award: Mila Goranova (University of Stirling): ‘Multi-Objective Evolutionary Optimisation of Antibiotic Treatments
SICSA Elevator Pitch Video Competition
  • 1st place: Alice Lynch, University of St Andrews
  • 2nd place: Linda Lapp, University of Strathclyde
  • 3rd place: Craig Docherty, University of Stirling

All winners were awarded their prizes at the SICSA PhD Conference on 19th June 2019.

Congratulations to SICSA Supervisor of the Year 2019

Congratulations go to the SICSA Supervisor of the Year 2019, Professor David Manlove of the University of Glasgow.

This award recognises the exceptional contribution that Professor Manlove has made to his students and it was presented at the SICSA PhD Conference on 18th June 2019.

We received a great many nominations this year from across the SICSA institutions and the judges also awarded honourable mentions to:

  • Dr Gordon Morrison, GCU
  • Dr John Thomson, University of St Andrews
  • Dr Chenghua Lin, University of Aberdeen
  • Dr Zhiyuan (Thomas) Tan, Edinburgh Napier University
  • Dr Tom Flint, Edinburgh Napier University
Nominations for the 2020 award will open next summer.

SICSA Cyber Grants

On behalf of the SICSA Cyber Security theme leaders, congratulations go to the successful applicants for the recent SICSA Cyber Security Small Grants call:

  • Andrea Bracciali, Stirling
  • Nhamo Mtetwa, GCU
  • Zeeshan Siddiqui, UWS

The Cyber Security small grants are a new development for the SICSA research themes and we received a relatively high number of proposals in the first ever round this summer.  For this call, there was a 38% success rate for proposals and applications came from nearly half of the SICSA member institutions.

Please keep an eye on the SICSA web site for details of future calls.

SICSA appoints new Director

SICSA has appointed Professor Aaron Quigley of the University of St Andrews as its new Director.  Professor Quigley commences the role on July 4th 2019.

Professor Quigley is the Chair of Human Computer Interaction in the School of Computer Science at the University of St Andrews.  He co-founded SACHI (St Andrews Computer Human Interaction research group) and served as its Director until 2018.

He is currently the ACM SIGCHI Vice President for Conferences (members of the ACM SIGCHI Executive Committee), member of the ACM Europe Council Conferences Working Group, a board member of ScotlandIS and an ACM Distinguished Speaker.  He will also be general co-chair for the ACM CHI conference in Asia in 2021.

He is no stranger to SICSA, having previously served as Deputy Director/Director for Knowledge Exchange and as Co-leader for the SICSA Human Computer Interaction Research Theme for several years.  We are delighted that he will return as Director in the summer.

For more information about Professor Quigley, please see

Energy Technology Partnership Emporium – Registration open

SICSA is pleased to be part of the ETP Emporium event, taking place next month at the University of Strathclyde.


The transition to a low carbon economy presents multi-disciplinary challenges which need collaboration across all sectors to resolve. It is crucial to ensure that society, as a whole, has access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.

What are these challenges, and how do we organise ourselves to tackle them?

The Energy Innovation Emporium brings together the energy community to crystallise the benefits of a low-carbon future. By exploring the energy transition challenges, academia, industry and the public sector will identify avenues of innovation and cooperation that will define research and investment needs, and economic opportunities.

Confirmed Speakers include:

  • Prof Sir Jim McDonald – Chair of ETP
  • David Richardson – Innovation Lead for Energy Systems & Infrastructure, InnovateUK
  • Jim Fleming – Head of Energy Theme, EPSRC
  • Tim German – Senior Relationship Manager Government & Regulation, Energy Systems Catapult
  • Alex Reid – Director of Engagement Scotland, Connected Places Catapult
  • Tim Rotheray, Director, The Association for Decentralised Energy

For further information and to register for free, please visit:

 Please direct any questions about the event directly to

SICSA Cyber Security – Call for Small Research Grants

The SICSA Cyber Security research theme invites proposals to support Scottish Cyber Security researchers in carrying out research activities over the summer of 2019. We anticipate applications for three types of activities (or a combination):

  • Travel (max £250);
  • Equipment (max £500);
  • Studentship (max £1000)

While there is no restriction on the topics, we encourage applications to research into new cyber-related areas and those that are difficult to find funding for. Example topics include (not limited to) human-centred cyber security, misinformation detection (fake news), media privacy and security, digital rights management, blockchain, policy and practices, ethics etc.

The closing date for this call is 31st May 2019. 

To apply:

Small Grant Application Form

Cyber Security Small Grant Guidelines

Please address any questions to the Cyber Security Research Theme Leaders, and