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Computer-based systems are now pervasive in business and engineering. Society is growing increasingly dependent on computer systems to preserve and protect that which we value. Specifically, these systems may be required to exhibit the following properties:

  • Safety - when they must protect human life and health, and the environment (for example, train or aircraft control systems)

  • Security - when they must preserve assets, including information (for example, banking systems and military networks)

  • Reliability or availability - when they must ensure the continuity of essential system functions (for example, health monitoring systems)

To be dependable in such applications, these systems need to be free from flaws, sound in construction and robust. Systems with these characteristics are referred to as 'high-integrity' systems.

About HISE

The High Integrity Systems Engineering Group (HISE) undertakes research and teaching in all aspects of high-integrity computer-based systems, particularly real-time safety-critical systems and secure information systems. The broad aim of our work is to build a coherent set of methods and tools for the development and assessment of high-integrity systems and to achieve transfer of this technology into industry. HISE is part of the Department of Computer Science at the University of York. We receive sponsorship from a variety of government sources - including DTI, the EPSRC, the European Commission the MOD, NASA, the Royal Society and the US Army Research Labs. Research support also comes from European industry - most notably Airbus, BAE SYSTEMS, QinetiQ and Rolls-Royce plc. We also have a wide network of collaborators and partners, involving groups from Universities and research labs around the world.

Technical Interests

Research in HISE focuses on a range of topics in the systems and software engineering, safety and security. Current research activities include:

  • Systems and Software Architecture, especially for embedded control systems
  • Requirements Engineering
  • Product Line Development, especially for embedded systems
  • Formal System and Software Development, including formal development of control systems
  • Development and Assessment of Integrated Modular Avionics
  • Test Automation
  • Safety Analysis for Systems of Systems
  • Failure Modeling for Complex Multi-Technology Systems
  • Development and Assessment of Safety Cases and Dependability Cases
  • Risk and Trust-based Security Management for Networked Systems
  • Unification of Safety and Security

At present, the main application areas for our work are aerospace (both aircraft and engines), mobile networks and railways. Several major research projects within the group are directly funded by industry: Airbus fund a collaborative programme known as DepNet; BAE SYSTEMS funds the Dependable Computing Systems Centre (DCSC); Rolls-Royce plc funds the University Technology Centre in Systems and Software Engineering (UTC); QinetiQ funds The Circus Project; The MoD and the US Army research Labs fund the International Technology Alliance (ITA) in Networked Systems, which is led by IBM; HISE is responsible for coordinating the security aspects of this programme. The DTI, MOD and EPSRC jointly funded the Defence and Aerospace Research Partnership in High Integrity Real Time Systems (DARP).

In addition to our work with the aerospace sector, HISE has been involved in projects with the automotive, railway signaling, telecommunications and nuclear power industries. Our collaborators have included Daimler-Chrysler, National Air Traffic Services (NATS), Nortel Networks, Praxis Critical Systems. More recently projects have been undertaken with High-Integrity Solutions (HIS), and SEA Limited. We also work with research groups in several Universities; most notably Newcastle upon Tyne, Sheffield , Oxford, Cranfield  and Southampton in the UK, plus many overseas including those in Australia, Ireland, Brazil, Macau, Germany amongst others.

HISE is also a key contributor to the Circus project. Circus combines Z and CSP with a refinement calculus to support development of state-rich reactive systems. The development of Circus started in 2000 as a result of collaborative work with the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Brazil. Since, then we have had the enthusiastic support of many collaborators from around the world (Ireland, Macau, Brazil) and from British industry. Together, we have investigated both the theoretical underpinnings of integrated refinement languages and its applications. QinetiQ supports the Circus project as an industrial collaborator.

Technology Transfer and Teaching

We are strongly committed to disseminating the findings and insights of our research to industry. Our many collaborative projects afford an understanding of current industrial practices and problems, and also facilitate technology transfer. HISE's research activities are therefore complemented by an extensive portfolio of teaching and training activities and consultancy services. Our research and consultancy work has influenced projects as diverse as the Astute submarine, the automated signaling systems on the M42 motorway, EuroFighter Typhoon, and vehicle braking systems.

Our teaching falls into two strands. HISE is responsible for the University-based MSc Programme in Safety Critical Systems Engineering, which provides students with a thorough grounding in theoretical principles and state-of-the-art techniques for the design, development and verification of safety-critical systems. In the past ten years, the MSc has attracted over 1,000 students from over 60 companies. More recently we have started a specialist MSc in Gas Turbine Control (GTC) for Goodrich and Rolls-Royce. We also provide a series of on-site courses in Safety and Hazard Analysis for industrial customers. Recent clients include Airbus, the Australian National University, BAE SYSTEMS, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Lockheed Martin, Syntell (Sweden) and Rolls-Royce plc.

The work in the HISE group was also instrumental in winning the 1996 Queen's Anniversary Prize for the University for work in industrial technology transfer.