Manchester Universities’ SPRITE+ Network Secures Grant to Develop Its Work

The University’s Security, Privacy, Identity and Trust Engagement NetworkPlus (SPRITE+) has secured a £2.6 million follow-on award from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council supplemented by £2.3 million from institutional contributions and project partner in-kind commitments. The funds will support the network to consolidate its existing work, and further develop its reach and impact through an ambitious programme of activities.

SPRITE+ was created in 2019, as part of the EPSRC’s Digital Economy programme, to foster engagement between academic and non-academic communities and provide a platform for building interdisciplinary collaborations to address challenges related to the future of digital trust, identity, privacy, and security (TIPS). Its activities include workshops, showcase events, research funding, and other community-building activities across disciplines and sectors.

Since its launch, SPRITE+ has attracted over 750 members from academia, industry, government, law enforcement and civil society organisations, and the support of eighteen Project Partners. Currently, 75% of its members are academic researchers from technical, scientific, arts/humanities and social science disciplines, with over ninety HEIs represented from the UK and beyond.

In its second phase, SPRITE+ will be led by Professor Mark Elliot from the University of Manchester, with Professor Stacey Conchie (Lancaster University), Professor Deeph Chana (Imperial College London), Professor Vladimiro Sassone (University of Southampton), and Professor Sakir Sezer (Queen’s University Belfast). The current SPRITE+ Director, University of Manchester’s Professor Emma Barrett, will remain as part of the Management Team for phase two.

The additional funding from 2023 will enable SPRITE+ to enhance its research support, including new funding calls to tackle industry-led challenges, ‘deep dive’ research projects and horizon scanning exercises. Early career researchers will benefit from enhanced opportunities to develop their skills and engage with stakeholders from industry, government, and civil society. SPRITE+ will also extend its international reach by building new collaborations in Canada, Australia, South Korea and the USA. The new activities will complement and extend the existing programme of sandpits, community building and networking events.

As the UK’s national NetworkPlus for TIPS, SPRITE+ works closely with other networks and hubs that also cover aspects of digital trust, identity, privacy and security, supporting their work and maximising opportunities for collaboration across disciplines and sectors. Twenty-four high-profile organisations (including organisations from phase one) have already signed up to join phase two of SPRITE+ as Project Partners.

Security, privacy, identity, and trust are vital in defining the type of societies we will be living in as we move through the 21st century. To enable the best outcomes, we need joined-up interdisciplinary research across the breadth of those four areas. SPRITE+ has been a fabulous initiative, building the interdisciplinary network, creating spaces for innovation to flourish and establishing ourselves as the go-to point of contact to engage with the broadest UK network of interdisciplinary, cross-sector digital TIPS experts. For the next phase, our vision is to expand the influence of the network through building partnerships and driving innovation in research.

Professor Mark Elliot said. 

The second phase of SPRITE+ will launch in September 2023, and is funded by the EPSRC for four years.