Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Software engineering

This area explores research into the design, implementation and maintenance of software, enabling development of software that is dependable, efficient and maintainable.

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

The scope and what we're doing

This research area includes topics such as:

  • requirements engineering
  • software design
  • software quality (including reliability, safety, security and usability)
  • software testing and analysis
  • software adaptation and evolution
  • software process and automation
  • empirical software engineering.

The strategy for this research area recognises the high quality of research in the UK and the key underpinning role it has to play in several challenges of national importance.


Our goals for this research area are outlined below.

Meeting growing demands

We aim to continue to increase UK capacity in software engineering to meet growing demands from several nationally important challenges, while maintaining a base of high-quality fundamental research at the core of the subject.

Creating scalable environments

Our portfolio will play a key role in enabling and supporting the foundation of new complex, open, scalable environments such as autonomous systems or an ‘Internet of Things’. This will require the strengthening of existing links with research areas such as:

This contribution will be needed to achieve the aims set out as part of the Future Intelligent Technologies EPSRC cross-ICT priority (including development of reliable, adaptive technologies).

Find out more about the cross-ICT priorities in the Information and Communication Technologies theme.

It should include consideration of how developments in hardware can influence software engineering, particularly in complementary research areas such as:

Cybersecurity challenges

We aim for our researchers to give more consideration to cybersecurity challenges and contribute to ongoing work driven by security issues. Researchers in this area are critical to achieving the objectives of the Safe and Secure EPSRC cross-ICT priority, particularly in developing resilient software that can form the foundations of complex, unpredictable systems.

Find out more about the cross-ICT priorities in the Information and communication technologies theme.

Considering people

We aim to increase consideration of people and users in the field of software engineering, including experts and non-experts who build, maintain or use software, and industry.

There are opportunities to take advantage of initiatives such as the Software Sustainability Institute, which could provide insight into the building and use of software in practice. There is also a need to include co-creative approaches to new software engineering techniques, in line with the People at the Heart EPSRC cross-ICT priority.

Find out more about the cross-ICT priorities in the Information and communication technologies theme.

Why we're doing it

There is a substantial level of high-quality software engineering research in the UK, demonstrated by strong representation of UK researchers at international conferences such as the International Conference on Software Engineering, Foundations of Software Engineering, and Automated Software Engineering.

EPSRC recognises that software engineering supports many other areas of information communications technologies and beyond. Although impacts arising from this research area are significant, they may sometimes be partially ‘hidden’ behind an associated application area.

Researchers in this area can continue to contribute to challenges posed by the world moving to complex, open systems and environments, for example autonomous systems and an Internet of Things.

There is a particular need for research into new techniques for software to reliably adapt and learn. This will require work across the portfolio with researchers in areas such as:

Engagement with the academic and user community has identified that further software engineering research is essential to future advances in cybersecurity.

Researchers in this area have significant impact on skills uptake in industry through undergraduate teaching and involvement in standards boards. Many disciplines rely on good quality software.

The Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) and Research Software Engineer Fellowships are encouraging translation of novel software engineering techniques into practical use across computational science and a range of disciplines, demonstrated by the co-funding of Software Sustainability Institute by the following research councils:

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

In terms of research training, there is a balanced portfolio between studentships and cohort-based training. There is high demand from industry for students trained in this area, demonstrated by a significant number of Industrial Cooperative Awards in Science and Engineering.

Although there is a range of EPSRC funding in this area, including programme grants and fellowships, there has been a reduction in the number of large groups and there are fewer UK leaders than in the past. The demands placed on researchers by the challenges described above therefore exceed their capacity to deliver.

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 Software Engineering.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Last updated: 5 January 2023

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