Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Sensors and instrumentation

This research area covers the development, optimisation and integration of devices that detect and measure changes in temperature, pressure, vibration and light, for example.

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

The scope and what we're doing

Sensors and Instrumentation research area encompasses the development and optimisation of new or existing devices that detect and measure changes in temperature, pressure, vibration and light. It also includes the integration and optimisation of these devices into a new system or instrument.

Design and integration of new instrumentation to enhance knowledge of processes, environments or materials using new or existing technology is also part of this research area. Research can either be generic or underpin a particular application.

Novel research in sensors and instrumentation plays a pivotal role in enabling progress on a range of EPSRC challenges, such as robotics, the internet of things, big data and smart manufacturing. We will take action to support networking across the community that links underpinning research with key application areas.

We will continue to support research that has potential to underpin EPSRC priorities. Examples include:

  • deployment of new instruments in extreme environments
  • remote and distributed sensing systems
  • fabrication of new advanced devices.

Due to the UK’s strong industrial base in this area, the sensors and instrumentation community will benefit from aligning closely, and collaborating with, Innovate UK investment.

Sensors and Instrumentation research underpins developments across all research council remits, for example environmental monitoring, clinical technologies, food security and smart cities. We will work with other research councils to engage our researchers in challenges outside our remit that require high quality, novel sensors and instrumentation research.

As this is a research area that requires capital investment in equipment and infrastructure, we will support the community in identifying gaps and opportunities to ensure high quality research is delivered. We will also work with both the academic and the industrial community to promote leadership in the field of sensors and instrumentation.

This research area is also of potential relevance to the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office’s Official Development Assistance funding streams.

Why we're doing it

Demand for sensor and instrumentation technology is extensive due to the fact that this research area underpins both emerging markets and established industries.

This research area underpins a number of other research areas across the EPSRC portfolio, specifically:

Sensors and Instrumentation also supports a number of application areas, including:

  • aerospace
  • healthcare
  • energy
  • robotics
  • manufacturing
  • infrastructure
  • the internet of things.

Due to the diverse and underpinning nature of this field, researchers often align themselves with a specific application area rather than the broader sensors and instrumentation community. This results in a fragmentation of the community, which in turn often results in a lack of cohesive strategy and leadership – a key issue to address.

Three centres for doctoral training (CDTs) align to this research area.

Overall, the sensors and instrumentation community contributes £14 billion a year to the UK economy and employs 73,000 people across 18 sectors, ranging from agriculture to space. Furthermore, the UK is adept at leveraging sensor technologies. A vibrant industry, made up of both small and medium-size enterprises and large-scale businesses, is engaging in its own research and development.

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 sensors and instrumentation.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Last updated: 5 January 2023

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