UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


Digital Technologies Policy Laboratory

STEaPP's Digital Technologies Policy Lab is an interdisciplinary research group dedicated to engaging with policy and technical communities to develop practical, evidence-based solutions to contemporary challenges arising from emerging digital technologies.

Digital technologies are reshaping the ways that we interact, work, and govern. Projects in the Digital Technologies Policy Lab (DTPL) are distinctly sociotechnical. Addressing these contemporary challenges requires an equally interdisciplinary approach. For instance:

  • Harnessing the full potential of the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT) requires we invest in policy and regulation that demand the best IoT security standards before products leave the production floor and the kinds of expert industry collaboration necessary to keep IoT security standards and devices up-to-date as emerging vulnerabilities are identified in the wild.   
  • The use of artificial intelligence in critical sectors such as healthcare raises serious concerns about patient safety, security, the protection of fundamental rights, and the resilience of the system altogether. These changes require complex adaptations to ensure the preparedness of clinical staff, healthcare system managers, medical device manufacturers, infrastructure suppliers, standards-making bodies, and regulators.  
  • Innovations in the scope, scale, magnitude, and sophistication of criminals’ use of digital technologies require law enforcement and private cybersecurity communities to find equally innovative ways to combine their capabilities – within domestic contexts, and across organizational and jurisdictional boundaries – in the fight against transnational cybercrime. 
  • Our social, political, and economic lives’ dependence on global communication demands we better understand, sustain and update the diverse non-state institutions and data governance practices that keep the Internet’s infrastructure glued together in a secure and stable way.   
  • As disinformation campaigns become even more pervasive, social media platforms and government actors are wrestling with how to design, incent, and deploy effective fact-checking interventions. 

These kinds of wicked digital technology policy issues have profound implications for social engagement, economic growth, the provision of public goods, domestic and international security, and our fundamental rights. The scope, scale, and pace of change intrinsic in these challenges means that the formulation of digital technology policies designed to address these issues must be able to not only keep pace but also adapt. 

To understand the real-world factors and feedback mechanisms shaping contemporary and emerging digital technology policy challenges, DTPL projects bring together experts and practitioners from across policy, non-profit, civil society, standards-making, and technology communities. Integrating these diverse viewpoints provides the kinds of interdisciplinary perspectives that are increasingly required to understand and evaluate the complex mix of measures and interventions needed for effective digital technology management, policy, and strategy development. Taken together, our projects offer rigorous, interdisciplinary analysis geared to developing real-world solutions focused on reaping the benefits of the unprecedented opportunities that come with technological change. 

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PETRAS National Centre of Excellence for IoT Systems Cybersecurity

PETRAS is a consortium of 12 research institutions with outstanding expertise in securing the connected world, tackling critical issues in privacy, ethics, trust, reliability, acceptability, and security

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Mapping the Operational Institutional Complex Sustaining the Internet’s Infrastructure

Mapping and characterising the complex of actors - institutions, organisations, and communities - that ensure the security and stability of the Internet’s infrastructure.

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Establishing IoT Reputation Systems: Sociotechnical Challenges to Securing Transnational IoT Value Networks

To model and develop an IoT security governance regime that can effectively monitor and characterise the efficacy and tractability of operational IoT security practices.

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Standardizing and Regulating Emerging Technologies

What are the main challenges of standardizing emerging digital technologies and processes such as the Internet of Things (IoT) or algorithmic decision systems (ADS)? How can standards encourage responsible innovation and underpin public policy objectives?

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REG-MEDTECH: Regulatory and Standardization Challenges for Connected and Intelligent Medical Devices

Investigating the critical cybersecurity, software, algorithmic decision-making challenges posed by connected, intelligent medical devices.

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Regulatory Strategies for Targeted Healthcare

Investigating the development of regulatory approaches and frameworks for the manufacture and delivery of advanced biotherapeutics, such as cell and gene therapies.

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Risk Assessment of Information Management Tools and Digital Infrastructures for Advanced Therapies Manufacturing

Investigating the critical risks associated with the increased reliance on data collection and processing, information management, and broader digital infrastructures and systems needed for the manufacture, administration, and monitoring of personalised medicines.

STEaPP Contributors

Dr Edison BicudoResearch Fellow in Biopharmaceutical Regulation
Dr Irina BrassAssociate Professor in Regulation, Innovation and Public Policy
Dr Andrew MkwashiResearch Fellow in Regulation and Standardization of Connected, Intelligent Medical Devices
Dr Roser PujadasLecturer in Digital Innovation
Dr Jesse SowellLecturer in Internet Governance and Policy
Dr Ine SteenmansAssociate Professor in Futures, Analysis and Policy
Professor Jeremy Watson CBEProfessor of Engineering Systems and Director and PI of the PETRAS Centre of Excellence