Filipe M. Ferreira awarded £1.2m UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship

Dr Filipe M. Ferreira has been named as one of one hundred and one new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellows, announced today by the Science Minister Amanda Solloway. He has been awarded £1.2 million over the next four years to develop new technologies for expanding Internet capacity.

The capacity of the Internet is 100 times greater today than it was 10 years ago, and 10,000 times greater than it was 20 years ago. This steady rate of expansion over the past few decades has been powered by optical fibre transmission systems, but current technologies are now reaching their limits.

This means that upgrading the Internet will come with increasingly higher costs as content and data demands continue to grow. To overcome this, Filipe will use the funding to put together a multidisciplinary team to develop new technologies capable of establishing thousands of parallel optical paths over a single optical fibre strand. This has not been done before because over long distances these optical paths become scrambled beyond the unravelling capabilities of anything in existence up to now. Filipe and his team will develop a new photonic processor that merges photonic integrated circuits and machine learning so that large-scale spatial parallelism can be achieved within every optical fibre.

Dr Ferreira said:

“I am immeasurably happy about receiving a Future Leaders Fellowship, and relieved that I have good news for the many people that helped me along the years. It’s a unique opportunity, with the scale, flexibility and duration of the funding to support innovative ideas capable of delivering long-term impact and growth for the UK. This fits perfectly with my research aim – to go beyond current information channel limits – arguably the greatest challenge currently faced by digital optical communications.”

Polina Bayvel, Professor of Optical Communications and Head of the Optical Networks Group at UCL commented:

“We are delighted that Dr Ferreira’s outstanding potential has been recognised in this way. As a holder of a Future Leaders Fellowship, Dr Ferreira will play a big part in building the Optical Networks Group research programme, continuing our quest to advance optical networks for the next generation, maximising optical capacity and delivering bandwidth, flexibly and with low delay, when and where it is needed.”

The UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship scheme is a £900 million fund open to early career researchers and innovators from across UK business and academia. The scheme is designed to provide flexible and long-term support so that its fellows can explore ambitious research questions and develop their own careers. The Future Leaders Fellowships programme supports researchers from every background and welcomes applicants from around the world.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said:

“Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with freedom and support to drive forward transformative new ideas and the opportunity to learn from peers right across the country. The fellows announced today illustrate how the UK continues to support and attract talented researchers and innovators across every discipline to our universities and businesses, with the potential to deliver change that can be felt across society and the economy."

Filipe is currently a TRANSNET Senior Research Fellow, having joined UCL in 2019, moving from the AIPT, Aston University, a partner organisation within the TRANSNET programme. Through the Future Leaders Fellowship scheme, Filipe can now build his own team and establish himself as an independent researcher. Many congratulations Filipe!