Imperial College London

Imperial academics named Royal Academy of Engineering Chairs


Imperial College London main entrance on Exhibition Road

Projects in assistive robots and synthetic biology have received funding for ten years as part of the Academy’s Chair in Emerging Technologies scheme.

Professor Yiannis Demiris from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Dr Guy-Bart Stan from the Department of Bioengineering have been named as Chairs and will receive funding for their research projects.

The Academy’s Chair in Emerging Technologies scheme aims to identify global research visionaries and provide them with long term support to lead on developing emerging technology areas with high potential to deliver economic and social benefit to the UK.

The ten-year support provided to the Chairs will enable them to progress their pioneering ideas from basic science through to full deployment and commercialisation.

Intelligent robots

Yiannis Demiris, Professor of Human-Centred Robotics in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, has been named as one of the Royal Academy of Engineering Chairs in Emerging Technologies and awarded funding for his research project ‘Personal Assistive Robots’. 

The support will enable Professor Demiris to develop a world-leading innovative engineering research programme in personal assistive robots. His research will focus on the development, implementation and validation of artificial intelligence systems that will enable robots to intelligently assist those who need support, and adapt to meet the individual needs of a person.

A fundamental challenge in the field is to develop machine learning, computer vision and user modelling algorithms that adapt to the changes in motor and sensory function over a person’s lifetime, providing personalised optimal lifelong assistance while maintaining privacy.

A range of challenging healthcare scenarios will be addressed including smart robots for children with disabilities and smart robots to assist the growing elderly population with activities of daily life. 

Transforming synthetic biology

Dr Guy-Bart Stan, Reader in Engineering Design for Synthetic Biology at Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering, has also been named a Chair and awarded funding for his project ‘Accelerating engineering biology: efficient engineering of reliable and high-performance biosystems’.

Dr Stan will use systems and control engineering techniques to design and implement robust, high-performance biosystems that can perform tasks autonomously and reliably.

The resulting biomolecular and cellular systems will enable applications in biotechnology, sustainable manufacturing, next generation therapeutics, and lifelong health and well-being, and will help to transform synthetic biology from an emerging technology to a mature engineering discipline.

Pioneering individuals

Professor Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “The new technological areas advanced by our Chairs in Emerging Technologies have the potential to transform our everyday lives, as well as positively impact to the UK’s economy and generate new sources of wealth. Engineering is critical to achieving the goals of the UK government’s industrial strategy, and investment in emerging technologies means that we can secure our footing in important future markets.

“For these technologies to reach their full potential it is important to invest in the pioneering individuals who advocate for them, as without their vision and foresight it is difficult to identify the products and services of tomorrow.”

In total, the Royal Academy of Engineering has awarded £20 million research funding through its Chairs in Emerging Technologies programme, providing long-term support to nine world-leading engineers across the UK to advance emerging technologies.

The areas of research funded reflect the UK’s wider technological priorities, with many of the projects directly aligned to the government’s Industrial Strategy and designed to tackle some of the biggest industrial and societal challenges of our time.


Joanna Wilson

Joanna Wilson
Communications and Public Affairs

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Synthetic-biology, Global-challenges-Engineering, Robots, Research
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