Showcase Speakers

Ron Diftler

Dr. Ron Diftler

Branch Chief, Robotic Systems Technology Branch, NASA Johnson Space Center Branch


Myron (Ron) Diftler, Ph.D. 

Dr. Diftler currently serves as the Chief of the Robotic Systems Technology Branch at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC).  He is responsible for projects in the areas of: Humanoid Robotics, Wearable Robotics, and Mobility Systems. Dr. Diftler led the development of the Robonaut 2 (R2) humanoid robot project in collaboration with General Motors which resulted in an R2 unit undergoing testing on the International Space Station. In addition to collaboration with GM, Dr. Diftler led his team through previous collaborations with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Johns Hopkins University, Vanderbilt University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Southern California, Rice University, and the Institute for Human-Machine Cognition.

Dr. Diftler holds a B.S.E. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University, a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Yale University and a Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering from Rice University. His research interests include humanoid robotics, dexterous manipulation, impedance control and human augmentation. Dr. Diftler has published more than 50 peer reviewed technical papers in robotic systems and helicopter dynamics.  He has 11 patents currently in process or awarded in the field of robotics including several on robot hand technology.  Dr. Diftler is a recipient of a 2012 Service to America Finalist Medal, a 2009 NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Award, a 2005 IEEE Humanoids Conference Best Paper Award, and a 2004 NASA Public Service Medal.

Helen Fulson

Helen Fulson

Chief Product Officer, Twinkl

11:40 School Robot Competition

Helen Fulson is Chief Product Officer at Twinkl Educational Publishing, where she oversees the production of Twinkl’s huge range of educational resources. Twinkl provides high-quality, trusted learning materials from activity sheets and assessments to augmented reality apps and much more. Helen supports all stages of product development at Twinkl, from initial idea and innovation through to creation, all whilst keeping up to date with the latest developments in the world of education and global curricula. Before joining Twinkl in 2013, Helen spent 14 years teaching Key Stage One and Key Stage Two in schools across the UK.     

Yang Gao

Professor Yang Gao

Director of the Future AI & Robotics for Space (FAIRSPACE) EPSRC Hub, Surrey University

10:00am Future AI & Robotics for Space (FAIRSPACE) EPSRC Hub

Professor Yang Gao is the Associate Dean (International) for Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences (FEPS) and the Professor of Space Autonomous Systems at Surrey Space Centre (SSC). She is also the Director of UKRI/UKSA National Hub on Future AI & Robotics for Space (


) and Head of the 


 which specializes in robotic sensing, perception, visual GNC and biomimetic mechanisms for industrial applications in the extreme environments. She brings nearly 20 years of research experience in developing robotics and autonomous systems (RAS), in which she has been Principle Investigator of internationally teamed projects funded by UK Research Councils (EPSRC/STFC), InnovateUK, Royal Academy of Engineering, European Commission, European Space Agency, UK Space Agency, as well as industrial companies such as Airbus D&S, Neptec, Sellafield, and OHB. Yang is also actively involved in design and development of real-world space missions like ESA’s ExoMars, Proba3 and LUCE-ice mapper, UK’s MoonLITE/Moonraker, and China’s Chang’E3, etc. In recent years, Yang’s work has also been applied to several non-space sectors including nuclear and agriculture.

Anthony Geffen

Anthony Geffen

CEO & Creative Director, Atlantic Productions

15:00 KEYNOTE: ‘The Deepest Dive’


“The Deepest Dive” from Anthony Geffen – His talk will elucidate the filming challenges of exploring the deep ocean and the pioneering submersible during the Five Deeps expedition. The team developed new camera systems that could be mounted on the submersible, operate at up to 10,000m below sea level and work with robotic landers with camera systems; this allowed them to film Victor Vescovo’s record breaking dive (descending nearly 11km/7 miles to the deepest place in the ocean – the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench). They also had to design new rigs that would go inside the submersible and capture every moment of the dives. After the Five Deeps expedition is complete later this year, the plan is to pass the submersible onto science institutions so researchers can continue to use it. The challenges of exploring the deep ocean – even with robotic vehicles – has made the ocean trenches one of the last frontiers on the planet. Once thought to be remote, desolate areas, the deep-sea is teeming with life and exploration these areas is vital to new developments in many areas, e.g. climate science – there is growing evidence that ocean beds are carbon sinks, playing a role in regulating the Earth’s chemistry and climate.

Anthony Geffen is one of the world’s leading documentary film makers and a pioneer in multi-platform story telling. He has won over 50 international awards including multiple British Academy awards (BAFTAs) and multiple Emmy Awards. He followed in the footsteps of Ang Lee and James Cameron to be presented in Hollywood with the Charles Wheatstone Award for his outstanding contribution to film and television.

Anthony’s films, which have been seen across the world, include documentaries, theatrical films and IMAX. His diverse output includes 11 projects with David Attenborough, including the award winning 

Great Barrier Reef

 Series, the acclaimed BBC series 

Inside the Commons

 and the land mark series (BBC/Discovery) 

The Promised Land

, about the great African American migration, and the award winning theatrical film 

Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest


Anthony worked for 10 years for the BBC before setting up Atlantic Productions in 1992, one of the most respected high-end factual production companies of which he is the CEO.  Atlantic Productions incorporates a group of companies including Zoo (computer graphics) and Colossus (3D). Anthony was also responsible for setting up Alchemy VR, which produces immersive experiences including VR, AR and MR.

Anthony has become renowned for his work on multiple digital platforms, including his work in 3D, interactive apps and now immersive experiences. In 2017 he received the first BAFTA awarded for VR storytelling. He speaks regularly at key media and technology forums, including TEDX and Google Zeitgeist.

Lynn Gladden

Lynn Gladden

Executive Chair of EPSRC

09:15 UKRI: Creating the best possible environment for research and innovation in Robotics and Autonomous Systems to flourish


United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) was formed in April 2018 bringing together the UK’s Research Councils, Research England and Innovate UK into one body. Its formation offers an unprecedented opportunity for multidisciplinary working as well as the ability to identify and tackle new research challenges and enhance delivery of societal and economic impact from our world-leading science and engineering research base. Furthermore, in a global economy where technological expertise drives economic growth, we are central to delivering the government’s target of 2.4% of GDP invested in R&D by 2027.

My own research council is EPSRC. We want to make the UK recognised as the place where the most creative researchers can deliver world-leading engineering and physical sciences research. We exist within a research ecosystem that includes our partner councils in UKRI, the R&D base within business, SMEs, government departments, charitable organisations and international partnerships.

Engineering and physical sciences play a crucial role in underpinning modern economies and societies. Driving progress through human curiosity and experimentation, they deliver affordable solutions to national and global challenges. EPSRC provides the research base which underpins the manufacturing, engineering, telecommunications and computer programming sectors, amongst others, which contribute over £300 billion per annum Gross Value Added and over 4 million jobs to the UK economy.

This is an exciting time for engineering and physical sciences research. With EPSRC support, researchers continue to advance the frontiers of knowledge and understanding, whilst partnerships with business and other stakeholders build on these breakthroughs to deliver transformative technologies. Since 2015, we have established our first institutes: The Alan Turing Institute in data science; The Faraday Institution in battery science and technology; The Sir Henry Royce Institute in advanced materials; and most recently The Rosalind Franklin Institute, which focuses on transforming life science through interdisciplinary research and technology development. These institutes represent a total financial investment of around £478 million.

We have also engaged enthusiastically and successfully with the opportunities offered by UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI’s) National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF). In addition to investing around £750 million per year in the research base, we have won over £400 million of NPIF awards, including Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and Strategic Priorities Fund projects and support for 650 doctoral students and 80 Innovation Fellows. Our new Prosperity Partnerships scheme, meanwhile, has introduced a new way of working with business, with investment of £156 million that includes £90 million leveraged from industry and university partners.

Our new Strategic Delivery Plan (SDP) identifies three complementary high-level objectives. First, we aim to generate economic impact and social prosperity by exploiting our existing and future research base to deliver a productive, connected, healthy, resilient nation. Second, we will unlock the potential of engineering and physical sciences research by stimulating and challenging the research community to open up new areas of science, as well as by supporting talented people and strengthening engagement with research users and business. Third, we aim to enrich the engineering and physical sciences landscape by providing the foundations for world-class research, which means attracting the most talented researchers, providing state-of-the-art research infrastructure at laboratory and national scale, and managing our portfolio so we can rapidly position ourselves in new, ground-breaking areas.

Professor Lynn Gladden is the Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and was appointed in October 2018. Professor Gladden is the Shell Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, and a Fellow of Trinity College.Her research has focussed on advancing magnetic resonance imaging techniques, originally developed for use in the medical environment, and using them in engineering research to gain greater understanding of the physical and chemical phenomena that determine the performance of chemical processes and their resulting products. In addition to her own research, Professor Gladden has held a number of research oversight roles in the UK and abroad, and has also been Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Cambridge. She is currently a Judge for the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.

Stephen Hart

Dr. Stephen Hart

Senior Scientist, TRACLabs


Dr. Stephen Hart has over 15 years of experience in developing software for making the programming complex behavior for humanoid robots easier. In his graduate studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and his postdoctoral work at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genoa, this work focused on how to create behavioral knowledge representations that are suitable for learning manipulation skills and that can be reused in different contexts and on different robots. As a Senior Researcher for General Motors R&D between 2010 and 2014, Dr. Hart was the Behavior & Applications Lead first for the NASA-GM Robonaut 2 project and then for the Valkyrie project at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. After moving to TRACLabs in late 2014, Dr. Hart helped lead their software team in the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge finals to a top 10 finish. Since then, he has been awarded a number of small business research grants and is currently overseeing the development of TRACLabs’ CRAFTSMAN and Affordance Template software for a number of NASA-related and commercial projects.

Kirill Horoshenkov

Professor Kirill Horoshenkov

Professor of Acoustics, University of Sheffield


Robotics for Buried Infrastructure Inspection


In Europe, the total value of sewer assets amounts to 2 trillion Euros. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that water collection systems in the USA have a total replacement value between $1 and $2 trillion. Similar figures can be assigned to other types of buried pipe assets which supply clean water and gas. However, little is known about the condition of these pipes despite the pressure on water and gas supply utility companies to ensure that they operate continuously, safely and efficiently. Why do we know so little about the condition buried pipes? Why we have to dig each time when something goes wrong with these pipes? This talk attempts to answer these questions. It presents an overview of the state of art of the current pipe inspection technologies and problems they have. Our vision for the future of buried pipe inspection is then presented. It is shown that two particular emerging technologies, swarms of autonomous inspection robots and fibre-optic cable sensing, are likely to be the future for buried pipe sensing. The advance of these two technologies will enable utilities to rehabilitate their buried pipe systems much more proactively, with a pinpoint precision and at a very low cost. This talk also discusses the challenges which need to be overcome to make this vision a reality. .

Professor Horoshenkov’s main research interests are in novel sensors for water industry, novel acoustic materials and physical acoustics. His other areas of work relate to noise control, audio-visual interactions and design of nature-inspired noise control solutions. Professor Horoshenkov leads the EPSRC Acoustics Network ( He leads Theme 3 (Inspecting and restoring water infrastructures using robotic autonomous systems) on the EPSRC TWENTY65 Grand Challenges Grant.

A majority of funding for his research has come from the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Royal Society, European Union and the industry. Professor Horoshenkov is a member of the EPSRC-sponsored Pennine Water Group at Sheffield, Chairman of the Research Coordination Committee of the Institute of Acoustics, member of the EPSRC Peer Review College, member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA) and Journal of Applied Acoustics.

Patrick Lahey

Patrick Lahey

Co-founder and President of Triton Submarines, Sebastian, Florida

15:00 KEYNOTE: ‘The Deepest Dive’


“The Deepest Dive” from Anthony Geffen & Patrick Lahey – His talk will elucidate the filming challenges of exploring the deep ocean and the pioneering submersible during the Five Deeps expedition. The team developed new camera systems that could be mounted on the submersible, operate at up to 10,000m below sea level and work with robotic landers with camera systems; this allowed them to film Victor Vescovo’s record breaking dive (descending nearly 11km/7 miles to the deepest place in the ocean – the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench). They also had to design new rigs that would go inside the submersible and capture every moment of the dives. After the Five Deeps expedition is complete later this year, the plan is to pass the submersible onto science institutions so researchers can continue to use it. The challenges of exploring the deep ocean – even with robotic vehicles – has made the ocean trenches one of the last frontiers on the planet. Once thought to be remote, desolate areas, the deep-sea is teeming with life and exploration these areas is vital to new developments in many areas, e.g. climate science – there is growing evidence that ocean beds are carbon sinks, playing a role in regulating the Earth’s chemistry and climate.

Patrick Lahey is the Co-founder and President of Triton Submarines based in Sebastian, Florida. In 2019, Patrick became the second Canadian to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench and the first person to dive the Challenger Deep twice while accompanied by another explorer. Patrick also successfully completed the world’s deepest ever salvage operation at 10,927 meters during one of his historic dives in the Mariana Trench.

Born in Ottawa Canada, Patrick began diving in 1975 and started working as a professional diver in 1982. He has nearly 40 years of commercial underwater experience earned from his involvement in a diverse range of projects around the world. During his career, Patrick has participated in the design, engineering, manufacture and testing of numerous underwater vehicles and diving systems including over 60 manned submersibles. He is a fully qualified air, mixed-gas and bell-saturation diver with a background in electronics and instrumentation.

In his role at Triton Submarines, Patrick has overseen the development of the company’s entire range of submersibles, including the Triton 36000/2 or Limiting Factor, which was used during the groundbreaking Five Deeps Expedition. The Triton 36,000/2 is the first and only full ocean depth capable manned submersible to be fully accredited by an internationally recognized third party classification society (DNV-GL) with an ‘unlimited diving depth’ noted on the certificate.



David Lane

Professor David Lane

Director of the Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets (ORCA) Hub, Heriot-Watt University

09:30 Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets (ORCA) EPSRC Hub

Research interests

Autonomy: Engineering of advanced cognition into unmanned and autonomous systems – control, navigation, signal processing, planning, world modelling, learning, operator dialog, architecture. (e.g. autonomous underwater vehicles for oil and gas intervention, under-ice survey)

Analytics: Predictive fault detection and diagnosis for condition based maintenance and through lifesupport of remote assets (e.g. offshore wind farms, railways, subsea oil and gas infrastructure).

Biomimesis: Bio-inspired sensing and locomotion (e.g. dolphin inspired underwater sonar, turtle magnetic navigation, seal vibrissae (whiskers) sensing, fish propulsion and energy harvesting)

James Law

Dr. James Law

Senior Experimental Officer, University of Sheffield

11:43 School Robot Competition

11:46 Manufacturing Hackathon Challenge

I am a researcher in robotics, with over 15 years’ experience covering control systems, multi-robot coordination, and psychological modelling. Currently my main research interests are in human-robot collaboration, exploring the interface between human psychology, and robotics.

I received my M.Eng. degree in Electronic Control and Robot Engineering at The University of Hull in 2003, and my Ph.D. in Intelligent Systems from the Open University in 2008. My early work considered the structure and complexity of emergent coordination in multi-robot teams. This led to my involvement in 

robot football

, representing the UK between 2004-2006.

Barry Lennox

Professor Barry Lennox

Director of The Robotics & Artificial Intelligence for Nuclear (RAIN) Hub, The University of Manchester

10:15 The Robotics & Artificial Intelligence for Nuclear (RAIN) EPSRC Hub

Barry Lennox FREng is Professor of Applied Control in the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering. He held the EPSRC Chair in Nuclear Decommissioning between 2012-2014 and is Research Director of the Dalton Cumbrian Facility. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Senior Member of the IEEE, Fellow of the IET and InstMC and a Chartered Engineer.

He received a BEng in Chemical Engineering and a PhD from Newcastle University and before being appointed Lecturer at the University of Manchester in 1997, worked as a Research Associate and Fellow at Newcastle and Monash Universities.

His research interests are in the development and deployment of robotic systems for nuclear decommissioning applications, applied control systems and the use of acoustic pulse reflectometry for monitoring industrial pipelines. In 2002 he co-founded 

Perceptive Engineering

, a process control solutions provider and through 


, his work in acoustics has led to the development of equipment that has been commercialised and successfully applied in the North Sea, USA and Asia to detect and locate blockages in subsea pipelines and heat exchangers.

Rannia Leontaridi

Dr. Rannia Leontaridi OBE, FRSA

Director of Business Growth at BEIS and Co-Director for the Office for Artificial Intelligence, Office for Artificial Intelligence

09:05 BEIS & UK-RAS

Rannia Leontaridi is the Director of Business Growth at the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Rannia leads government’s policy focus on entrepreneurs, small businesses, but also new and emerging high growth businesses, including those in technology and emerging future sectors, and has the sponsorship of the UK’s development bank, the British Business Bank. She is also the Co-Director for the Office for Artificial Intelligence for the UK Government and leads the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge on Artificial Intelligence.

She joined the Cabinet Office in May 2011 to head the delivery of one of the key Coalition Government commitments, the Mutuals Programme, which created more than 100 employee owned private sector businesses to deliver public services worth more than £2bn. Rannia was the Co-Founder and Director HMG Shareholder at Crown Hosting Data Centres, a joint venture between the Cabinet Office and Ark Data Centres.

Rannia came to the Cabinet Office from the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) where she was the Head of Strategy following a two year placement at Universities UK as the Director of Strategy and Policy. Before that she was a Deputy Director at the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit.

Rannia started life as an entrepreneur and later built an academic career in the UK. She was educated at the Saïd Business School, University Oxford (2014-2016). Prior to this, she completed an MSc in Economics at the University of Glasgow and a PhD in Economics at the University of Aberdeen. She is a Carnegie Scholar in Economics and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts.

John McDermid

Prof. John McDermid

Professor of Software Engineering, University of York

11:50am White Paper Launch: Regulation, Ethics & AI

I am Professor of Software Engineering and a member of the High Integrity Systems Engineering Group (HISE) within the 

Department of Computer Science

at the 

University of York

. I was Head of Department from 2006 to 2012.

My primary research interests are in high integrity computer systems, especially in safety and security. My work has influenced industrial practice both directly and via standards. I have taught extensively at postgraduate level, including on continuing professional development courses for industry.

Tony Prescott

Prof. Tony Prescott

Professor of Cognitive Robotics, Sheffield University

11:55 White Paper Introduction: Education & Skills

I am a 

Professor of Cognitive Robotics

 at the University of Sheffield and Director of 

Sheffield Robotics

 an inter-disciplinary research institute across both Universities in Sheffield. This is my departmental home-page. I also maintain profiles on 




, and a 

Youtube Channel

 with links to online interviews, talks and movies about our robots and research.

Amanda Prorok

Assistant Professor Amanda Prorok

Department of Computer Science and Technology,

Cambridge University

11:20 ‘

When Robots Hit the Road: New Challenges in Multi-Vehicle Coordination’


The practical realization of automated mobility, transport, and end-to-end logistics is burgeoning. Coordinated multi-vehicle systems are facilitating this new reality through the execution of task allocation, path planning, and formation control. In this talk, I shed some light on new challenges in these areas, and present insights that pertain to scalability, robustness and privacy.

Amanda Prorok is a University Lecturer in Cyber-Physical Systems at the Department of Computer Science and Technology, University of Cambridge, UK. Previously, she was a Postdoctoral Researcher in the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, where she worked on networked robotic systems. She completed her PhD at EPFL, Switzerland, where she addressed the topic of localization with ultra-wideband sensing for robotic networks. Her dissertation was awarded the Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) award for the best thesis at EPFL in the fields of Computer Sciences, Automatics and Telecommunications. Further awards include Best Paper Award at DARS 2018, Finalist for Best Multi-Robot Systems Paper at ICRA 2017, Best Paper at BICT 2015, and MIT Rising Stars 2015. Website:

Mitchell Pryor

Prof. Mitchell Pryor

Research Scientist, University of Texas


Prof. Pryor earned is BSME at Southern Methodist University in 1993. After graduating, he taught math and science courses at St. James School in St. James Maryland before returning to Texas. He completed is Masters (1999) and PhD (2002) at UT Austin with an emphasis on the modeling, simulation, and operation of redundant manipulators. Since earning his PhD, Prof. Pryor has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in the mechanical and electrical engineering departments as well as led and conducted research in the area of robotics and automation in Mechanical Engineering, Petroleum Engineering and the Nuclear Engineering Teaching Laboratory. He has worked for numerous research sponsors including, NASA, DARPA, DOE, INL, LANL, ORNL, Y-12, and many industrial partners. He is a co-founder of the Nuclear Robotics Group and the Drilling & Rig Automation Group. Both are interdisciplinary research efforts to deploy robotics in hazardous, uncertain environments to perform manufacturing, material handling and other tasks. He is a member of ROS-Industrial, IEEE, ASME, PGE, and ANS. He is an officer on the executive committee of the ANS Robotics and Remotes Systems Division.

Rustam Stolkin

Professor Rustam Stolkin

Director of National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR) Hub, University of Birmingham

09:30 National Centre for Nuclear Robotics, EPSRC Hub

Professor Rustam Stolkin is Director of the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR) hub and serves as the Chair in Robotics and Royal Society Industry Fellow in the School of Metallurgy and Materials. He leads the

Extreme Robotics Lab (ERL)

, Europe’s most prominent university research lab dedicated to nuclear and other extreme environment applications of advanced robotics and AI.

Rustam is an interdisciplinary engineer with diverse research interests, although mainly focuses on robotics. His main interests include vision and sensing, robotic grasping and manipulation, robotic vehicles, human-robot interaction, AI and machine learning.

Guang-Zhong Yang

Professor Guang-Zhong Yang

Hamlyn Centre of Medical Robotics, Imperial College London

09:00 Introduction of new UK-RS Network Chair

15:00 Keynote Introduction

16:30 Awards Ceremony

Professor Yang’s main research interests are in medical imaging, sensing and robotics. In imaging, he is credited for a number of novel MR phase contrast velocity imaging and computational modelling techniques that have transformed in vivo blood flow quantification and visualization. These include the development of locally focused imaging combined with real-time navigator echoes for resolving respiratory motion for high-resolution coronary-angiography, as well as MR dynamic flow pressure mapping for which he received the ISMRM I. I Rabi Award. He pioneered the concept of perceptual docking for robotic control, which represents a paradigm shift of learning and knowledge acquisition of motor and perceptual/cognitive behaviour for robotics, as well as the field of Body Sensor Network (BSN) for providing personalized wireless monitoring platforms that are pervasive, intelligent, and context-aware. 


UK Robotics Week

22nd – 28th June 2020

International Robotics Showcase

26th June 2020


Highlights from the International Robotics Showcase 2019

Find out more