Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Radio frequency and microwave communications

This research area looks at techniques and applications that use and propagate signals, and related research supporting future connected infrastructure.

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

The scope and what we're doing

Radio frequency (RF) and microwave communications research encompasses techniques and applications that use and propagate signals, and related research around wireless technologies in the context of communications. This area includes research relating to wireless broadband, satellite communications, cellular technologies and other mobile communications techniques supporting future connected infrastructure.

This area makes a key contribution to delivering the connectivity that will meet future data demands in an increasingly connected world. We want to maintain a strong portfolio of research in this area, while focusing on delivering impact and an improved balance of support across career stages.

Our aims for this research area are outlined below.

Testing in the real world

A portfolio in which researchers subject their experiments to realistic, real-world testing wherever possible. Experimental testing of theoretical results and simulations in radio frequency and microwave communications research can significantly increase impact and researchers should take advantage of opportunities for this.

Research applied to emergent technologies

Researchers considering emergent technologies requiring application of their research. There are expected to be many avenues by which this research area can have societal impact (for example in developing technology to connect sensor networks, and tools to enable the Internet of Things). In these cases, significant value can be added by tying programmes of work closely to use case examples. We expect the community to continue to reach out to collaborators and users in application domains to achieve this.

Collaboration across disciplines

Increased collaboration and community-building among researchers. By the end of the period, we hope to see more leaders developing who will work across discipline boundaries and set new directions.

Support balanced across career stages

A greater number of early career researchers, as part of a rebalancing of support across career stages.

This research area is expected to contribute significantly to the full realisation of 5G and to advances in telecommunications further into the future. We want to maintain the current strong portfolio of project partners and interaction with users to achieve this. However, researchers should continue to develop concepts and technologies that are forward looking and that may have an impact on a longer timescale.

Why we're doing it

While there are a handful of strong UK research groups in this area, there are many small groups distributed widely and these often lack access to experimental testbeds of scale, or they focus on theoretical research and modelling studies. The impact of some theoretical results is limited.

There is significant industrial interest in radio frequencies (RF) and microwave communications from the telecommunications industry, and it is clear that proposals co-developed with industry are often likely to result in higher impact.

Evidence exists, however, that risks are associated with following the mobile technology mass market too closely. Consideration must be given to finding a balance that includes research which may have an impact in the longer term. In the short term, the impact of such research may not be apparent due to restrictions imposed by standardisation.

Compared with other research areas in the EPSRC portfolio, a lower proportion of this research area is committed to training. A large percentage of postdoctoral researchers leave academia to work in industry, which has led to a relatively low number of researchers who are early on in their careers.

Researchers in this field are important in contributing to the connectivity that will meet future data demands in an increasingly connected world, and such developments will be necessary to connect potentially billions of internet of things devices and to enable other connected sensor networks.

This research is also important in a wide range of applications of RF, microwave, millimetre wave and terahertz radiation beyond the field of communications. For example radar, spectroscopy, non-destructive testing and novel healthcare technologies.

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 radio frequency and microwave communications.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web

Last updated: 4 January 2023

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