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Nature Inspired Computation and its Applications

Final Report Summary - NICAIA (Nature Inspired Computation and its Applications)

NICaiA, Nature Inspired Computation and its Applications, is a 4 year exchange programme of early and experienced researchers in the field of nature inspired computation and its applications across 3 universities in the European Union and 4 universities in China. This programme was funded by the Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (call reference FP7-PEOPLE-2009-IRSES).

The field of nature inspired computation is a relatively new inter-disciplinary area of research that is concerned with the computational capabilities of natural systems and their interpretation in a computational framework. Each of the seven participants (three in the EU and four in China) has dedicated research groups that are amongst the world's best in a relevant field of research. The participants were chosen to cover a wide range of geographical regions and complementary research expertise. The collaboration has generated high-impact research outcomes in the form of publications, seminars and workshops. The strengthening of the relationships between the EU and China has set the stage for long-term collaborations in the future and will provide the European Research Area (ERA) with a significantly improved access to the rapidly growing Chinese academic and industrial sectors.

Scientifically, the NICaiA project has led to more than 100 publications in leading international journals and conferences. The papers can be found from Some of these papers have appeared in top international journals, such as IEEE Transactions on Evolutionary Computation (impact factor is 5.545) IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems, IEEE/ACM Transactions on Audio, Speech, and Language Processing, IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering, IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, IEEE Transactions on Reliability, IEEE Transactions on Cybernetics, IEEE Transactions on Autonomous Mental Development, etc.

In terms of knowledge transfer and wider networking among project partners, especially between EU and Chinese partners, a total of 13 workshops were organized over the four year period. Each of the seven project partners hosted at least one workshop. At each workshop, not only project partners presented their latest research ideas and outcomes, additional researchers were invited to present their work in order to broaden the EU-China networking. The workshop speakers included some of the most distinguished researchers in the world. All workshops are registration free and open to everyone who is interested in the research topics. For more information about the workshops, please visit

Formally, the NICaiA project consists of a number of researcher secondments, from EU to China and vice versa. We have successfully met our original target and completed 444 person-months of researcher exchanges. We have paid particular attention to early stage researchers (ESRs) because they are our future. The majority of exchanges were completed by ESRs.

It is very important to look beyond just the person-months in terms of researcher exchanges and to examine the broader impact of this project. One of the key aims of the Marie Curie programme is explained very well by the official document: “Marie Curie’s new International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES)… helps research organisations to set up or strengthen long-term cooperation with others, …” ( All the following impacts were generated by the NICaiA project in collaboration with others. It has a much broader scope than just an exchange project.

a) One PhD graduate (an ESR) from the University of Birmingham (UK), a project beneficiary, took up a highly competitive postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), a project partner. One research fellow at the University of Birmingham (UK) took up a full professorship at the University of Science and Technology of China. Such people movements between EU and China are very useful for sustained long-term collaboration between EU and China.
b) A “Cooperative Agreement between Xidian University, The People’s Republic of China and Leiden University, The Netherlands” was signed in December 2014 for further research and education collaborations between the two universities.
c) The International Research Centre for Intelligent Perception and Computing, founded at Xidian University in October 2012 with NICaiA project partners and other collaborators, was recognized by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China on 29 September 2013as a state key laboratory.
d) Two NICaiA project partners, the University of Science and Technology of China and the University of Birmingham (UK), won a joint research grant from the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC):
i. Title: High Performance Evolutionary Computation
ii. Principle Investigator: Prof. Xin Yao, University of Birmingham, UK
iii. Co-Investigator: Prof. Ke Tang, University of Science and Technology of China, China.
iv. Budget: 2 million RMB Yuan
v. Period: 2014~2017.
e) The University of Science and Technology of China and the University of Birmingham (UK) also set up a Joint USTC-Birmingham Research Institute in Intelligent Computation and Its Applications (UBRI), at the University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China.