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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T030747/1
Title: MDE-Net: A UK Expert Network in Model-Driven Engineering
Principal Investigator: Zschaler, Dr S
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Institute of Coding
Department: Informatics
Organisation: Kings College London
Scheme: Network
Starts: 01 January 2021 Ends: 30 September 2024 Value (£): 463,075
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Networks & Distributed Systems
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
20 May 2020 EPSRC ICT Prioritisation Panel May 2020 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
We are facing a crisis: over the coming years, substantially more software needs to be developed than can be handled by the number of trained software engineers we can produce. Across Europe, we lack between 525,000 and 750,000 qualified IT professionals by 2020. Model-driven software engineering (MDE) enables experts with domain knowledge but without software expertise to leverage the work of software engineers and become active contributors to the creation of the software they use. In MDE, software is developed not in general-purpose programming languages (GPL) like C++, but using bespoke, domain-specific languages (DSLs) that are developed with domain experts' needs in mind. Such DSLs use terminology and syntax that is familiar to domain experts, but are underpinned by compilation, analysis, and interpretation infrastructure that allows statements in a DSL to be automatically evaluated by a computer, similar to software written in a GPLs. This enables separation of concerns: domain experts can contribute their expertise and make domain-relevant decisions (for example, about what the specific rule should be for computing tax on equipment purchases) without having to consider the technical implications of efficient computation. At the same time, software developers can focus on providing support for efficiency and scalability for a particular domain without having to worry about the detailed specification of specific domain problems.

The UK has a substantial strength in MDE research. However, penetration into practice is still slow and MDE research is not easily accessible to those outside of individual labs. The reasons for this situation can be found in a lack of visibility of opportunities enabled by MDE, a lack of easily accessible and easy to find training materials, and a lack of a well-organised community around MDE. This also makes it difficult to identify and pursue new research directions in the field, especially in collaboration between academia and industry.

MDE-Net will be the first UK network on model-driven software engineering. An EPSRC network is the best way to address the challenges described above: the network will provide a central source of information about MDE, including success stories, training materials, a regularly updated technology radar highlighting the current state of research and practice, and a catalogue of UK experts in MDE. The network will become the focal point of the MDE community, enabling close and continuous interaction between academic researchers and industrial practitioners as well as driving cross-fertilisation into other disciplines that are not typically considered from a software engineering perspective (e.g., biology, artificial intelligence, robotics, data science, urban sciences, geography, or medicine).

MDE-Net will be led by a team hosted at King's College London and led by Dr Steffen Zschaler (King's) and Prof Perdita Stevens (Edinburgh). Work will be undertaken through 3 working groups constituted from the network membership. WG1 will focus on driving impactful future research in MDE by bringing together researchers in MDE with relevant stakeholders from industry and other disciplines through a regular programme of workshops. WG1 will also manage a fund to support seed-corn projects so that new research collaborations can be built. WG2 will focus on training and education by curating existing and commissioning new training materials as well as offering a regular programme of training events and contributing to curriculum development. Finally, WG3 will work towards building a more coherent community around MDE and increasing the visibility of MDE successes and opportunities. Beyond making information available through the network website, this will be achieved by producing and regularly updating an MDE technology radar and running an annual national symposium on MDE. The network aims to achieve self-sufficiency by the end of the funding period.

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