Opteran Technologies Closes £2.1m Seed Round

James and Alex’s spinout Opteran Technologies today announced its £2.1m seed funding round, led by IQ Capital, with participation from Episode 1Seraphim, and Join. The investment will enable them to further develop and commercialise their core ‘Natural Intelligence’ technology stack for autonomous systems, which is based on core IP developed during the Brains on Board research project.

The funding announcement received widespread coverage including in mainstream media:

Opteran Technologies Pre-Seed Funding Secured

James and Alex, together with David Rajan, have secured £230k of pre-seed investment from the Northern Triangle Initiative, part of the Connecting Capabilities Fund of the British Business Bank, to move Opteran Technologies towards the market. Opteran Technologies is commercialising research undertaken during the Green Brain and Brains on Board projects, and is developing novel solutions to autonomy that do not rely on Machine Learning.

Swarm Awareness Grant Funded

James and Giovanni have been awarded the basic research grant Swarm Awareness from the ONRGThe Swarm Awareness project aims to endow a swarm with awareness of its own state, thus allowing individual agents to reach a consensus on the global swarm state. Particular examples of states to measure are swarm size (number of agents), fraction of the swarm committed to a unique decision (quorum), and super-threshold decision (decision-state). For open positions on this project visit its website:


EPSRC Programme Grant Funded

James is lead investigator on a new £4.8m EPSRC Programme Grant entitled ‘Brains on Board: Neuromorphic Control of Flying Robots’. Starting on December 30th 2016 for 5 years and including 5 investigators across 3 universities, this project will fuse cutting edge neuroscience, behavioural biology, computational modelling and computer hardware to design lightweight efficient on-board controllers for autonomous flying robots, inspired by the honeybee brain. The project partners are:

James Marshall (PI) – Computer Science, Sheffield

Mikko Juusola – Biomedical Sciences, Sheffield

Lars Chittka – Biological & Experimental Psychology, QMUL

Thomas Nowotny – Informatics, Sussex

Andy Philippides – Informatics, Sussex

Social Evolution book published

James’ monograph ‘Social Evolution and Inclusive Fitness Theory: An Introduction’ is now available, published by Princeton. The book aims to provide an introductory treatment of the logic of inclusive fitness theory, including its recent high profile criticisms. The presentation is aimed at quantitative experimental biologists and theoreticians.

Marshall, J. A. R. (2015) Social Evolution and Inclusive Fitness Theory: An Introduction. Princeton University Press.

Royal Society International Exchange Grant

James and ARC Fellow Andrew Barron (Macquarie University) have been awarded a Royal Society International Exchanges grant to build new collaborations between the EPSRC-funded Green Brain project, and Andrew’s work on invertebrate neuroscience. As part of the collaboration researchers will make short visits to each other’s institutions. BET Lab PhD student Lianne Meah has also been awarded an International Macquarie University Research Scholarship to spend one year studying in Andrew’s lab towards a joint degree between the two institutions.

Cognitive Neuroethology at Macquarie University

Green Brain project

ERC Consolidator Grant – DiODe

James has been announced as one of the 2015 awardees of the European Research Council’s Consolidator Grants, for his project entitled ‘Distributed Algorithms for Optimal Decision Making’ (DiODe). James will continue his work on distributed value-sensitive decision-making algorithms, inspired by swarming honeybees, deploying these in hundreds of micro-robots, and testing for implementation of these algorithms in diverse biological decision-making systems, from single cells up to primate brains. External collaborators include Princeton University, the University of Oxford, and the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology at Kontanz, among others.