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PhD Opportunities at CRADLE Robotics and AI

The Centre for Robotic Autonomy in Demanding and Long-lasting Environments (CRADLE) is an EPSRC-funded Prosperity Partnership that brings together the industrial experience that Jacobs has in applied robotics and autonomous systems (RAS) with the research expertise at the University of Manchester in this field. The partnership aims to deliver novel and transformational RAS technologies that enable robots to be deployed in the most demanding environments, such as space, nuclear, energy generation, and urban infrastructure, over long lengths of time.

To support CRADLE, we aim to admit and fund a cohort of PhD students, who will complete research projects linked to various aspects of the programme.

Specific research topics are given as follows (click to reveal description):

  • PhD Project 1: End-to-end Methods for the Verification of Autonomous Planetary Deployments 

    Main Supervisor: Dr Marie Farrell (Computer Science)

    This project seeks to develop, and exhibit, end-to-end methods for the heterogeneous verification of autonomous systems in (practical) planetary deployments. It will address how to integrate results from heterogeneous verification efforts that focus on individual system modules, investigating how evidence can be combined to support traceability from requirements/system-level properties to verification conditions/artefacts and final implementation.

  • PhD Project 2: Formal Verification of Robot Teams or Human-Robot Interaction

    Main Supervisor: Prof Clare Dixon (Computer Science)
    Robots are developed to work in small groups (robot teams) or may be designed to work in collaboration with humans (human robot interaction). The former might be necessary as it may take several robots at achieve some task, some to hold an item whilst others work on it, several to transport something etc. For the latter, robot assistants need to interact closely with the people they are working with.
    It is important to make sure both robot-robot teams and human-robot teams can achieve the task where possible, can recover from failure, interact in a safe manner etc. Verification is the process that checks the system does satisfy these required properties. This is often carried out using simulation or real robot experiments. Formal verification is a mathematical analysis of systems using techniques such as model checking or temporal theorem proving.
    This project involves developing and applying formal verification to robot teams and human robot interactions. Additionally, using different formal and informal verification techniques together to improve confidence in systems could be further investigated. This will help ensure that they satisfy the required properties and to investigate the robustness of the system to failure.
  • PhD Project 3: Robot Fleets for Inspection

    Main Supervisor: Dr Simon Watson (Electrical and Electronics Engineering)

    For more details, email

  • General PhD Application: Express interest for future research topics

    CRADLE aims to recruit a cohort of 12 doctoral research students (PhDs) during its initial 5-year programme. Research topics are influenced by the industry needs that Jacobs caters to. 

    If you would like to get updates on future PhD studentship calls, send your CV and Cover Letter to us (see How to Apply).

Each project will be supervised by academics at the University of Manchester and experts in the application of robotic systems at Jacobs, and they will all contain a significant focus on the design and development of practical robotic demonstrators.

Entry Requirements

Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree in engineering or computer science or an MSc qualification in Robotics, Electrical & Electronic Engineering, Mechatronic Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, or other equivalent discipline.

Equality, diversity, and inclusion are fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester and are at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, and transgender status. We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder).

How to Apply

To express your interest in applying for a specific PhD project, email with the following details:

  • Subject: [PhD Applicant] Department – Research Topic
  • Attach your CV and cover letter.

Upon passing the initial screening, you will then be advised to submit an online application through the university website ( and be asked to upload the following supporting documents:

  • Final Transcript and certificates of all awarded university-level qualifications
  • Interim Transcript of any university-level qualifications in progress
  • CV
  • You will be asked to supply contact details for two referees on the application.
  • English Language certificate (if applicable)

Funding Notes

Funded by UoM and Jacobs as their support to the EPSRC-funded Prosperity Partnership (CRADLE: Centre for Robotic Autonomy in Demanding and Long-lasting Environments). 

  • Skills and academic background matching with the research project, and academic records (including transcripts) at the master’s level or equivalent degree level.
  • Creative and innovation potential, ability to think out of the box.
  • Motivation of the candidate for inter-disciplinary research.
  • Ability to work with both academics and industry partners.
  • Fully funded for UK home students, but only partial funding is available for overseas students.