Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Image and vision computing

This research area focuses on the theory and fundamental underpinning of Image and vision computing in both two dimensions (2D) and three dimensions (3D), across the electromagnetic spectrum.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This research area focuses on the theory and fundamental underpinning of Image and Vision Computing in both two dimensions (2D) and three dimensions (3D), across the electromagnetic spectrum, with applications including:

  • feature and pattern analysis
  • pattern recognition
  • computer-based image interpretation, excluding medical image processing – see the Medical imaging research area
  • document image processing
  • video image processing and analysis
  • image databases
  • machine vision
  • robotics.

Our strategy recognises image and vision computing’s importance to data science and its underpinning of research across sectors such as robotics, security, defence, healthcare, communications, creative industries, media and manufacturing.


Exploiting multi-modal data

We aim to have a research area which continues to address growing relevance to data science, for analysing, understanding and exploiting the ever-increasing visual data and information (including multi-modal data) generated by broadcast media, social media and other sources. We aim for a portfolio which further explores and exploits the links between language and vision, addressing challenges in multi-modal interface research.

Increasing scene understanding for robot vision

We are aiming for an increase in collaboration by researchers working in this area with robotics and autonomous systems, in terms of making a strong contribution to scene understanding for robot vision (together with the research areas Vision, hearing and other senses and Artificial intelligence technologies).

More realistic rendering

We are aiming for a research area which continues to reflect a high degree of relevance to the creative industries, working with the Graphics and visualisation research area, in terms of image capture and analysis for more realistic rendering of scenes and faces. The Graphics and visualisation research area will also be maintained to reflect the contribution that the Image and vision computing research area will continue to have in developing biometric technologies and its importance in security and defence.

Underpinning cross-sector research

We want our portfolio to continue to meet the demand for core capability and to underpin image and vision computing research across many sectors, including:

  • robotics
  • security
  • defence
  • healthcare – for example, activity monitoring in the home environment
  • environment
  • manufacturing
  • media
  • the creative industries.

Medical imaging

We need researchers who consider what contribution they can make to the Medical imaging research area, in the context of understanding and extracting clinically relevant information from medical images.

Investing in early-career researchers

We’re aiming for a portfolio with a greater proportion of early-career researchers, to ensure the longer-term health of this research area.

Contributing to cross-ICT priorities

Researchers working in this area should play an important role in delivering the objectives of EPSRC’s Future intelligent technologies and Data enabled decision making cross-ICT priorities which are part of the Information and communication technologies theme. They should also be well-placed to contribute to the other EPSRC cross-ICT priorities.

To maximise the impact of these contributions, Image and vision computing area researchers should ensure effective communication with researchers in other contributing areas, including:

Addressing public trust and privacy

Researchers should acknowledge and demonstrate the importance of responsible innovation in their proposals, in relation to addressing the issues of trust, identity and privacy when using visual data from large-scale social networks and surveillance sources, and where there are issues in using technology which will need to be accepted and trusted by the general public (for example computer vision systems in driverless cars).

Why we're doing it

This has been a strong area of research in the UK for many years, with a number of leading groups located here. EPSRC funding, and funding from other sources such as the EU, is distributed across many UK institutions. Researchers are publishing competitively at leading international conferences.

Because of the UK’s strong research position, there are strong industrial links to large corporations such as the BBC, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple and IBM, and to a good number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). There has been huge growth in industrial research in this area, with Google, Amazon and Facebook heavily recruiting UK researchers.

This is a significant research area for advances in data science, for organising and understanding large amounts of visual information, and in developing context-based information retrieval of images, video and graphics from sources such as broadcast and social media (working together with the research areas Artificial intelligence technologies and, increasingly, Natural language processing).

It is also significant for advances in robotics and autonomous systems, in terms of scene understanding in robot vision, in many robotics application areas (working together with the research areas Artificial intelligence technologies and Vision, hearing and other senses).

Although UK universities have a strong history of supporting research in this area, retention of doctoral graduates in academia is in question. As well as heavy industrial recruitment, they tend to be attracted to universities abroad that are creating new programmes. UK academic institutions risk being depleted of a postdoctoral workforce and therefore of future leadership.

We need to ensure we have appropriate provision to cater for the demand for trained people with skills sufficient for the academic and industrial pipeline. There is a continuing need and demand for underpinning image and vision computing research across many sectors (see list in the ‘Scope’ section).

There is also a need for specialist high-performance computing for large-scale analysis and processing of large image or video databases. By 2019, annual global internet protocol traffic is predicted to reach two zettabytes, with 80% of this predicted to be video (up from 64% in 2014). In 2015, video accounted for 55% of total mobile data traffic and this is predicted to rise to 75% in 2020. Visual information is the key driver for both internet and mobile connectivity.

The main research areas that connect with this one are:

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for image and vision computing.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Last updated: 16 March 2023

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