EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Agri-Food Robotics: AgriFoRwArdS


EPSRCThe world’s first Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Agri-Food Robotics is being established by the University of Lincoln, UK, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia. We are looking for enthusiastic, talented students to join our new 4-year programme in a vibrant and research-intensive environment.

Agri-Food is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, twice the scale of automotive and aerospace combined. However, the food chain is under pressure from population growth, climate change, political pressures affecting migration, population drift from rural to urban regions, and the demographics of an aging population. Current agricultural practices are also harming the natural environment, with many species of wildlife facing risk of extinction over the next decade.

Addressing these challenges requires a new generation of highly skilled researchers and leaders in robotics and autononomous systems (RAS) with interdisciplinary expertise. AgriFoRwArdS thus focuses on the development of advanced RAS technologies, which will advance the state-of-the-art in both the fundamental RAS science and our chosen domain of Agri-Food.

The Centre brings together a unique collaboration of leading researchers located at the heart of UK agri-food business, together with the Manufacturing Technology Centre, and supported by leading industrial partners and stakeholders from across the food, farming and robotics industries. These include John Deere, Syngenta, G’s Growers, Beeswax Dyson, ABB and the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board.

Applications for entry into the CDT programme, starting in September 2020, are now being accepted.


Year 1: Students are required to complete the MSc programme in Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the University of Lincoln (delivered at the School of Computer Science on the Brayford campus in Lincoln city centre), supported by guest lectures, seminars and workshops from supervisors at the Universities of Cambridge and East Anglia, plus training activities alongside the other CDT students.  All three Universities are rated TEF Gold for teaching quality.

Years 2-4: Full-time PhD research. Students will benefit from internationally leading supervisory expertise from across the consortium, with academic supervisors from two of our partner Universities and an advisor from one of our industry partners. Twenty of the PhD students will be based at Lincoln, twenty at Cambridge, and ten at UEA.

Associated Training: An ongoing, integrated research training programme will take place throughout the MSc and PhD phases, often delivered at the centrally located NCFM campus. The programme will enable students to specialise between four possible career routes: (i) engineer, (ii) executive, (iii) entrepreneur and (iv) academic researcher, with training courses tailored to each of these directions. Paths (i) and (ii) tend to be associated with industry; (iii) is for people interested in starting a business or working in a small enterprise; (iv) are Professors and researchers. Note that there is no correct answer to this question in the application form, but it helps us to design the training to meet your needs. All students will receive ongoing training in software engineering and systems development for agri-food robotics.

Research Areas, Groups and Facilities

Research areas within the CDT include Mobile Autonomy; Manipulation and Soft Robotics; Sensing and Perception; Fleet Management; Human-Robot Collaboration; Robot Vision; Robot Learning; Robotic Mapping; Robot Task Planning; Robot Navigation; Swarm Robotics; Human-Robot Interaction; Systems Integration; Agri-Robotics; Food Manufacturing.

All of these topics may be applied to a diverse range of real-world challenges, from soil preparation, seeding, monitoring, scouting, weeding, spraying, selective harvesting and on-site grading, through to food processing, manufacturing and supply chain optimisation.

For further details on the research areas, groups and facilities available to students at the different partner institutes in the CDT, including members of the MSc delivery team and potential PhD supervisors, please refer to the following links:


An AgriFoRwArdS studentship provides 4 years of tuition fees at UK/EU student rates, a tax-free stipend at EPSRC rates, and a generous research training support grant enabling international travel and participation in the leading RAS conferences and symposia. Students will be expected to cover their own accommodation and subsistence costs throughout the studentship. Travel costs for any mandatory visits as part of the studentship are covered by the host university. Students will further benefit from participation in summer schools and the annual CDT conference, as well as the associated training programme. Additional funds are available within the CDT to support students in outreach, dissemination and public engagement activities, plus a student-run seminar series.

Entry Requirements

Applicants must hold/achieve a minimum of an upper second-class honours degree (or international equivalent) or Master’s degree in computer science, engineering, mathematics, statistics, physics or a cognate subject area.

Applicants must also meet the English language requirements at the Universities where they wish to study: please check the respective webpages at Lincoln, Cambridge and East Anglia for further details.

How to Apply

As a brand new CDT, we are currently in the process of constructing the AgriFoRwArdS website; however, to enable prospective students to apply immediately, we have created the following web-form.

Please make sure to check the eligibility criteria before you apply. Normally, a student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship. Although most CDT students must be UK residents, we also have a limited number of opportunities for other students, so please do consider applying even if you do not meet all of the EPSRC eligibility criteria.

For informal enquiries about the CDT programme and postgraduate studies at the University of Lincoln, please contact the CDT Director, Prof Tom Duckett. For enquiries about PhD studies at the University of Cambridge, please contact Dr Fumiya Iida, and for the University of East Anglia, please contact Prof Richard Harvey.

Diversity Monitoring

As part of our equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strategy, we need to monitor the diversity of our applicants. These data will be treated in complete confidence and will be removed from the application form prior to the selection process.

We ask that you please disclose the following information: your age, your gender, your ethnicity, any disability, your religion.

The data will be used to monitor and analyse recruitment profiles, helping the University to identify any trends, and continue to tackle equality and diversity issues more effectively. This information will be held in accordance with the provisions laid down in the relevant data protection legislation. For further information please see the University of Lincoln’s Privacy Notice.

Selection Procedure

As part of our equality, diversity and inclusion strategy, any identifying information and the requested diversity monitoring information will be removed prior to the short-listing process.

Applications will be assessed by the university specified on the application form as the preferred choice for PhD level study. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to interview at the selected university.

If your application is rejected by your preferred university, we will send your application to your next choice, if possible, until all institutions have had the opportunity to consider your application.

Successful candidates will then be asked to apply for the relevant programmes at the partner universities, including Lincoln’s MSc Robotics and Autonomous Systems as Year 1 of the studentship, and the PhD programme of the selected university for Years 2 to 4 of the studentship.

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