European Research Area Chair for Digital Games Technology

Professor Simon Colton, European Research Area ERA) Chair for Digital Games

Professor Simon Colton is one of the leading researchers in Europe in the field of Computational Creativity. As European Research Area (ERA) Chair, he leads the €2.4 million Framework Programme (FP7) ERA project in Digital Games Technology research at Falmouth University and took up this appointment in October 2014. The FP7 funding will be used to recruit a team of Research Fellows with specialist skills in games technology. ERA denotes that these are special awards from the European Union (EU) to help consolidate high capability research skills across the European Research Area.

Digital Games is a market which is experiencing exponential growth globally, and one in which Europe and Cornwall could take the lead. As a catalyst for regional development, high-level research in this area has the potential to make a significant contribution to the Grand Challenges facing society, such as health and wellbeing and carbon reduction, as games technology and games thinking have applications that are potentially significant to the wider economy and society. The ERA Chair and research team will accelerate the development of our research environment and are a massive boost in our aspirations to achieve Research Degree Awarding Powers (RDAPs) in the coming year.

Simon is a leading player in the field of Computational Creativity, which is a sub-area of Artificial Intelligence research. Before coming to Falmouth, he was a Reader in Computational Creativity in the Department of Computing at Imperial College, London, and then a Professor in Computational Creativity at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where he still holds a part-time professorship, and runs the Computational Creativity group.

He undertook his PhD and post-doctoral work in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. He has been a long-term member of the Computational Creativity field, and is a founding member of the Association for Computational Creativity. Simon holds a five-year Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Leadership Fellowship, and along with his team, investigates issues related to engineering software to act in an independently creative way. He has applied foundational research to domains including pure mathematics, graphic design, the visual arts, creative language and video game design, and he has worked directly with a number of game studios on projects related to adaptive game design.

The overview that this range of application domains has provided has enabled a more holistic view of the field to emerge, and Simon has written about philosophical issues including the differences between human and computer creativity, how to assess progress towards automated creativity, and the various stakeholders in Computational Creativity research. Simon has published more than 170 papers with more than 90 co-authors, and his research has won national and international awards. His work has attracted the attention of a number of print, broadcast and online media, with articles and interviews covering Computational Creativity research appearing in a BBC Horizon programme, Al-Jazeera, Channel 4 news and Reuters, the Times, Observer, Daily Mail, Metro and Independent newspapers, the New Scientist, Wired, Stuff and PC Pro magazines, BBC Radio 3 and 4, and numerous international outlets, including El Pais, WNPR radio, i09, Pacific Standard, and the Smithsonian magazine.

Simon is currently involved in three EC-funded projects: PROSECCO, which is a co-ordination action to promote Computational Creativity as a field, COINVENT, which looks at formal models of conceptual representations with applications to blending for problem solving and WHIM, which he leads, where the team are building the world’s first fictional ideation machine, called the WhatIf Machine. He is also leading an EPSRC project to look at automated programming for video game design, building on previous work in the group, and is a member of an EPSRC platform grant involving Edinburgh and Heriot Watt Universities, which studies representation and reasoning issues in automated mathematics.

Simon is well known for his work on The Painting Fool project, where the aim is to build a computer system that is one day taken seriously as a creative artist in its own right. He was nominated in 2012 for a World Technology Network award, in the arts category, and his work continues to span computer science and the arts.

At Falmouth, he will take up an ERA Chair in Digital Games Technology, where he will lead a team of six researchers to investigate the potential for Computational Creativity to enhance video game design, and vice versa. The work will involve blue-sky explorations of new technologies and their application to games, and translational work, where research software is turned into commercial products - with the intention of taking Computational Creativity to the next level, where software regularly supplies creations and consultancy to video game companies, amateur game designers and players.

In May 2014 Falmouth University was delighted to be awarded €2.4m for an ERA Chair to promote research excellence in digital games technology. The EU funded award constitutes Falmouth's largest single research project to date and will see the appointment of an internationally renowned Professor and a team of researchers with specialist skills in digital games technology.

Formally announced by Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, the award forms part of the EU Horizon 2020 initiative. Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn described competition for the 11 ERA Chairs as "enormous". Falmouth, the only UK recipient, joins selected institutions from across the EU in this - the first round of ERA Chair awards.

Further details about Simon and his work are available below.