behaviour, evolution, theory


The BET Lab is an interdisciplinary collection of individuals interested in behaviours and behavioural mechanisms, both in animals and in artificial systems. We apply a range of theoretical approaches, from mathematics and statistics, decision theory, computer science, and physics.

Historically called the ‘Behavioural and Evolutionary Theory’ Lab, nowadays we often consider neuroscience mechanisms or analogues, and increasingly test our theories in, or develop new algorithms for, robots.

The Lab is part of the Department of Computer Science, University of Sheffield, and is physically based in Sheffield Robotics.


Opteran Technologies closes £10 million seed+ round

24 June 2022

Lab spinout Opteran, the brain-biomimicry company, has secured £10m in Seed+ funding to scale up its Natural Intelligence technology. The funding round, led by Join, included IQ Capital, Episode 1, Seraphim, and newly-established fund Northern Gritstone.

The latest round of investment takes Opteran’s total private investment up to over £12m, enabling it to continue taking IP developed within the lab to market, as well as developing new IP of its own.

Read more about the funding announcement at Sky News.

Opteran Technologies closes £2.1 million seed round

24 November 2020

James and Alex’s spinout Opteran Technologies today announced its £2.1 million seed funding round, led by IQ Capital, with participation from Episode 1, Seraphim, 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:

How insect brains could help build technology to steer driverless cars’, The Telegraph, 24 November 2020.

Opteran Technologies pre-seed funding secured

23 September 2019

James and Alex, together with David Rajan, have secured £230,000 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

5 October 2018

James and Giovanni have been awarded the basic research grant Swarm Awareness from the ONRG. The 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, visit the project web page.


Current members

James Marshall – Principal Investigator

Alex Cope – Research Fellow

HaDi MaBouDi – Research Associate

Fadl Isa – PhD Student

Neville Dearden – Beekeeper

Joanne Seal – Senior Research Support Officer