The University launches its new Institute for Digital Engineering and Autonomous Systems

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The University of Liverpool launches its new Institute for Digital Engineering and Autonomous Systems – IDEAS

Executive Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Science and Engineering, Professor Wiebe Van Der Hoek, talks about the structure of the new institute IDEAS and its future ambitions: 

The Faculty of Science and Engineering is pleased to announce the launch of the Institute for Digital Engineering and Autonomous Systems (IDEAS). This institute will bring together activity in the areas of Autonomous Systems and Robotics, Data Analytics, and, more generally, Artificial Intelligence.

It will bring together academic research that is taking place in these areas in departments across the faculty and indeed the University, and link them strongly to activities that we do for and with external commercial businesses and partners. The Institute will be headed by Executive Director, Andrew Levers and Chief Commercial Officer, Lynn Dwyer.


Professor Wiebe Van Der Hoek said:‘’ To me, our academic expertise in Digital and AI is not just concentrated in one Department or School and IDEAS embodies this. The VEC, the DIF and CAIS will help us build on our academic strengths in AI and Digital and make them accessible to our commercial partners in the region, thereby helping us contribute to our mission in an area that is already changing the world – in an accelerating way, by directly generating highly technical solutions for companies, hospitals and law firms, highly skilled expertise and jobs for our students and partners, and research with impact.’’


IDEAS brings together three University of Liverpool units, two of which are new:


1. Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC)

The VEC is the UK’s leading centre of Virtual Engineering technology integration for industrial and commercial applications. Established in 2010, the VEC has a strong track-record in delivering digital innovation to industry, across the full product lifecycle. IDEAS will make the VEC’s presence at our Liverpool campus much more visible and accessible to University academics and local businesses.

The VEC has a portfolio of strategic projects, ranging from national infrastructure projects in the nuclear sector (DRD phases 1&2) and has just completed an ERDF funded project – LCR4.0 – a pioneering project supporting industrial digitalisation of small and medium sized companies within the Liverpool City Region.

A recent impact assessment report by Hatch Regeneris has highlighted that the LCR4.0 project is set to generate £31m GVA and 955 jobs over the next three years. The project featured in the Top 100 European Digital Champions list of the Financial Times (2018). The VEC has just secured a follow up project (> £2M), called LCR4 START, to build on this success.

Other activities of VEC include collaborative research and development projects in the areas of aerospace, automotive, energy, and medical.


2. Digital Innovation Facility (DIF)

The DIF will be housed in a brand new building with the same name (expected to be completed by the end of 2020), which is a £12.7M investment co-funded by the Combined Authority. The building will have four allocated labs for robotics, with a specific interest in robots for social domestic care, robots for the lab of the future, robots for manufacturing and robots for extreme environments.

There will also be an immersive reality lab and a virtual robotics lab. Moreover, there will be break out spaces where academics, PhDs and students can interact with our external partners, like IBM Research, Alder Hey Hospital, and SMEs. Space is also available for business to co-locate and develop digital projects with academics from the university.


3. Centre for AI Solutions (CAIS)

Whereas in the DIF the emphasis is on hardware for AI, in CAIS it is on software. CAIS will host a number of data analysts and programmers, who will help develop the ideas and outputs of our AI researchers into working ‘proofs of concept’.

CAIS will help customers (academics with funding to do a piece of data analytics, and companies, or public organisations who want to understand their data) produce bespoke solutions. It will thereby bring our academic work closer to impact, and at the same time demonstrate to our partners the value of our offer, in terms of cutting-edge research that can be transferred into practical applications. CAIS will also provide students with opportunities to gain workplace experience.


Look out for more news on the expanding facilities and launch dates.