PETRAS Closure Announcement

by PETRAS Director, Professor Jeremy Watson CBE FREng


Following extensive and initially positive discussions with Dstl concerning a new phase for the PETRAS Centre, which reached the point of contractual discussion, I am very sorry to say that high-level approval was not forthcoming. This means that PETRAS, after eight years, will come to a ‘hard stop’ on June 30th this year.

I want to assure you that we are working to protect and make widely available the legacy of outputs and links resulting from the two phases of PETRAS (Hub: 2016-19, and Centre: 2019-24). UCL’s Department of Computer Science is helping with this task, and my colleague Sarah Hardy will provide the links you need to access these outputs. PETRAS has executed around 150 projects and produced 400 or so publications and reports. We created collaborations across 24 universities and more than 150 research users in public, private and NGO sectors. Our researchers have spent more than 18 months in several secondments to government departments.

To User Partners, in particular, I wanted to say thank you for your engagement in our programme. I hope you gained new and useful insights and knowledge through working with us and our academic partners. Do remember to keep in touch with your university collaborators and consider reviewing the PETRAS database of projects to identify further experts in fields that become relevant to your work.

It has been a privilege and pleasure to be Director of PETRAS since 2016. I would like to thank my deputy directors (Professors Emil Lupu and Julie McCann, both of Imperial College) and the three other members of our senior founding ‘Quintet’; Professors Dave De Roure (Oxford), Rachel Cooper (Lancaster) and Tim Watson (ATI and Loughborough). Their wisdom and advice have been extremely helpful. The core academic team has included four brilliant senior fellows and an assistant researcher responsible for synthesising knowledge across projects to produce substantial policy reports, both proactively and in response to UK Government requests. The team, formed in 2019, comprises: Drs Gideon Ogunniye, Peter Novitzky, Oktay Cetinkaya, Mr Joe Bourne and Ms Amaya Hana. We have all benefitted from the advice and engagement of Professor Steve Hailes, Head of Department at UCL Computer Science.

PETRAS has received grant and advisory support of UKRI through EPSRC and Innovate UK. Their representatives have contributed strongly through membership of a Governing Board that spanned academic and industry projects under the ‘Securing Digital Technologies at the Periphery’ (SDTaP) programme, which supported demonstrators and academic start-up companies under CyberASAP. Notable chairs of the Governing Board include: Professors Mike Short and Joe Butler, Sarah Cameron and Lucy Mason – my particular thanks go to them.

Last but not least, I must give huge thanks for the professional and committed support provided by the Centre admin team. Led until recently by Eleri Jones with support from Halil Uzuner, Ruth Dollard and Rob Ebsworth, the team has very efficiently undertaken: Communications (Sarah Hardy), Business links (Emilie Didier and Rajab Said), and Administration (Loraine Daly). The Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy has hosted the programme from the beginning and provided great encouragement and support.Thank you again for your time and interest in the PETRAS enterprise. Best wishes for a safe and secure future in the rapidly emerging world of devices and intelligence at the edge of the internet.