Investing in the future of science, engineering and technology talent
We are working to transform the world as we currently know it by making it safer, smarter and more secure. However, these aspirations can’t be realised without action and with current technologies alone. This is why we invest over £150m annually in R&D including our partnerships with UK academia.
Currently, we sponsor over 50 PhD students as they follow their passion in the pursuit of knowledge and undertake research into some of the world’s most advanced capabilities and emerging technologies.
Through this, we are helping to foster the next generation of science and engineering talent, whilst contributing to the UK’s prosperity. It is only through investing now, that we can be stronger in the future.
PhD students are currently sponsored by Thales UK, with an additional six students sponsored every year
Corporate Strategic Partners in the UK committed to a shared vision to advance our state of the art capabilities
Invested annually by Thales into research and development
The total value of funding provided by our partnership with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
A breadth and depth of university engagement
At the heart of engineering is the drive to learn, develop, solve problems and test new ideas, which is why research and development underpins all of the work that we undertake at Thales.
We join forces with a wide range of universities and partners across the UK on many different areas of research. It enables us to maintain pace with new and emerging technologies, which is crucial to the future growth and profitability of our business – as well as the economic prosperity of the UK.
Our partnerships bring us the skills, capabilities and knowledge that we need, whilst developing and inspiring the next generation of engineers as we work together to solve future challenges.
The PhD students we support are currently undertaking research in key areas including sonar and sensor technologies, advanced satellite concepts, cyber security, autonomous systems and quantum technologies.
Engaging with academia and supporting social value across the UK
The pandemic, Brexit and a drive to create a more sustainable world have placed renewed emphasis and importance on science and innovation across the UK.
We collaborate with leaders in academia and industry to find solutions to the nation’s biggest and most urgent challenges.
Our rich and diverse network of PhD students and academic partners means that we play a leading role in the development of key digital technologies that will define the next decade and beyond, whilst revitalising the UK’s position on the world stage in order to create long-lasting economic and societal benefits.
Our key academic partnerships include:
We have a long-term ongoing partnership with the University of Manchester and many of the mathematical models and algorithms developed at the university are now in service in our sonars on submarines throughout the world.
Most recently, we have worked as part of a consortium with the university to develop tiny autonomous drones that can navigate and map unexplored subterranean environments beneath the UK’s rail network.
A succession of 10 – 15 years of PhDs undertaken at Heriot-Watt University in subjects including machine learning, advanced photonics and automatic image processing, have culminated in developing a ground-breaking surveillance product, Digital Crew.
The product provides continuous, automated video surveillance across the land, sea and air, by monitoring imaging from multiple cameras simultaneously and alerting objects of interest, enhancing sensing and reducing the cognitive burden on operators.
In partnership with the University of South Wales and the Welsh Government, we have launched the first R&D facility of its kind in Wales to specialise in cyber security, digital transformation and operational technology.
At the National Digital Exploitation Centre (NDEC), PhD students are able to test and develop their digital concepts, and in doing so are helping to position Wales as a global player in the technology industry, which is directly contributing to the prosperity of the region.
As part of this investment into the South Wales region, Thales's security business is supporting 7 PhD students in areas of advanced cyber security.
Autonomy is a rapidly expanding capability where there is a need for intensive research to be undertaken to shape the technologies of the future. In support of this ambition, the Thales and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) have joined forces on a £4.5m fundamental research programme to develop new design principles and processes for hybrid autonomous systems engineering.
We have funded four PhD students as part of this exciting initiative who are investigating topics relating to environmental search strategies for robot teams, management of high volumes of drone traffic and methodologies to integrate autonomous trains onto the existing network. You can find out more here.
Led by our RAEng Fellow Ben Pritchard in 2019 Thales entered into a five-year strategic partnership with the University of Southampton to undertake research into a range of subjects that include maritime autonomy, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), aircraft connectivity, sonar signalling, processing and quantum processing.
The partnership has seen PhD students undertake world-class research that is supporting the development of the technology, processes and procedures needed to safely develop the next generation of unmanned boats, submarines and aircraft.
Thales and the University of Cranfield are working closely in partnership to unlock the potential of new aviation technologies, such as unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and unmanned traffic management, aerial and ground autonomous systems, airspace data communications and digital aviation security.
In 2022, Thales and the University will start a PhD in an integrated sense and avoid algorithms for the operation of multiple UAS.
The PhD students making the world better, smarter and more secure
The diverse range of PhD students that Thales supports are making discoveries that will change the world as we currently know it, from developing AI and machine learning algorithms that will unleash human capability, to developing autonomous systems that can carry out dull, dirty and dangerous tasks, in order to protect and save lives.
Your PhD questions answered by Matt Ball, Chief Scientist within Research Technology and Innovation at Thales UK
PhDs tend to relate to early-stage research and concepts. For that reason, they may not justify investment from a business’s internal research and development funding.
Whilst they are often conceptual, they can be an extremely beneficial and cost-effective way of providing an understanding of emerging technology and how it might impact our business.
Working with our academic partners we pose challenges to the academic community and decide on areas of interest to undertake research. Once this has been agreed upon between the University and the business, we recruit a PhD student to carry out a research project within this area of expertise.
While we can help to steer and highlight particular areas of interest or challenges, the work has to provide a genuine contribution to knowledge in the field. This means students must work independently so that they can provide a noble contribution to science and are not encumbered with the needs and desires of a company.
PhD students spend the majority of their time at the University but have regular meetings with a Thales supervisor who can provide information, use cases and supporting data about systems to aid the research.
A PhD takes four years to complete and so they are a long-term investment for all stakeholders. They are an excellent way of uncovering new talent and a source of highly useful insights and technologies that may influence how we work as a business.
As well as providing financial sponsorship, Thales provides PhD students with data, knowledge of industry challenges, information and access to systems and technology, which can help to shape and support their research.
Thales’s breadth of offering across civil and defence, enables us to take an integrated, umbrella view of how technology can be integrated and utilised across civil and military domains so that both sectors can benefit from the technology.
This helps innovations get to market quicker, in order to realise benefits from the technology once the research has been undertaken – a win, win for all stakeholders.