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Dr Luc Rocher among three Oxford recipients of UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships

Published on
19 Jul 2024
Written by
Luc Rocher
UKRI has announced its latest round of 68 Future Leaders Fellowships, of which the OII's Dr Luc Rocher was one of three Oxford recipients. The funds will enable them to work on making privacy technologies more transparent and accountable.

Oxford researchers were among 68 of the most promising research leaders who will be funded £104 million to lead research into global issues and to commercialise their innovations in the UK.

UKRI’s flagship Future Leaders Fellowships (FLF) are designed to enable universities and businesses to develop their most talented early career researchers and innovators and to attract new people to their organisations, including from overseas.

The Oxford recipients are Dr Luc Rocher (Oxford Internet Institute), Professor Dennis Timo Egger (Department of Economics) and Professor Balint Koczor (Mathematical Institute).

Dr Luc Rocher is a lecturer at the Oxford Internet Institute, working at the interface of computer and social sciences. Prior to joining Oxford in 2021, they were a researcher at Imperial College London and MIT Media Lab, and studied at ENS de Lyon and UCLouvain.

Dr Rocher is working to improve how we research, access, and use sensitive human data. To address privacy threats, researchers and regulators have advocated for use of modern privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) such as synthetic data or differential privacy. Dr Rocher’s team aims to make these technologies more transparent and accountable.

Dr Rocher says: ‘Injecting noise into data or creating ‘synthetic’ datasets can fundamentally distort data in unknown but potentially harmful ways, for example if rare diseases are suppressed from synthetic data, or vulnerable communities are further marginalised.

‘We need strong public data infrastructure to protect human rights while maximising the untapped potential of NHS health data, platform data, and administrative data for independent researchers worldwide.’

The fellowship will advance an evidence-based science of privacy engineering to make research using digital traces safe and reliable; support data-driven policy interventions that rely on personal data; and inform the regulation of underlying AI technologies such as generative AI for synthetic data.

Dennis Timo Egger is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford and a Tutorial Fellow at The Queen’s College, Oxford.

He is a development economist interested in labour and trade, using large scale experiments and administrative data sets to conduct empirical research on migration, networks, and spatial linkages between economic agents in general equilibrium. His current work focuses on Kenya, Malawi, Ethiopia, China and Switzerland.

Balint Koczor is Associate Professor in Quantum Information Theory at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford.

His research includes quantum theory and in theory of (near-term) quantum computers, with a view to making quantum computers practical. This includes developing new and improved ways to deal with errors (error mitigation techniques) in quantum computers while his research also aims to exploit classical supercomputers to squeeze out as much performance from quantum computers as possible. He works with experimentalists and with quantum companies to develop optimised platforms to best tailor quantum applications to hardware.

UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: ‘UKRI’s Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with long-term support and training to develop ambitious, transformative ideas.

‘The programme supports the research and innovation leaders of the future to transcend disciplinary and sector boundaries, bridging the gap between academia and business.

‘The fellows announced today demonstrate how these awards continue to drive excellence, and to shorten the distance from discovery to prosperity and public good.’

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