DARPA funds research into concepts and technologies for the defence of the United States but which frequently have a catalytic effect in broader technology industry and society at large.

Coleman’s academic career in the UK and numerous senior technology management positions in the US since 1998 have made her an expert in artificial intelligence. She has been a member and past chair of the microsystems exploratory council within DARPA since May 2017.

Coleman graduated at the University of Salford in 1981 and stayed on to gain an MSc in computer aided logic design in 1983. She transferred to the University of Manchester where she gained her PhD in computer science in 1988. Her academic career subsequently took her to teaching posts at London universities before she joined California-based  contract research house SRI International in 1998.

Employment in the US has included spells with Intel, Samsung, Hewlett Packard/Palm, Nokia, Yahoo and Technicolor and she also directs research at the University of California Berkeley through her role as senior advisor to the Director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS).

Peter Highnam, who has been acting director of DARPA since January 2020, will step back into his previous role as deputy director.

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