University’s £13m centre of excellence unveiled by Metro Mayor

Digital technology

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, is officially opening the University of Liverpool’s Digital Innovation Facility (DIF) today (May 23).

DIF is a £12.7m Centre of Excellence in emerging digital technologies. Mayor Rotheram will be joined by tech entrepreneur and visiting Professor at the University of Liverpool, Sir Robin Saxby for the event.

Located on the university city centre campus, the DIF provides a purpose-built environment to support collaborations and partnerships between academics, industry and organisations in the research areas of computer and data science, robotics and engineering where the university has world class research capabilities.

The 1,500 sq m facility includes state of the art laboratories featuring cutting edge equipment and highly skilled support to facilitate enhanced access for businesses and organisations that wish to collaborate with university experts across multiple technology areas including visualisation, robotics, artificial intelligence, data science, simulation and modelling.

Specialist labs in the DIF include a mixed reality lab containing the latest in VR technology and equipment, an extreme environment lab that simulates real world hazardous conditions for testing robotics and autonomous systems and an immersive laboratory that focuses on developing sensory technologies in areas of smell and touch for future ‘Tactile Internet’ applications.

The DIF is co-funded by the University of Liverpool and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s Local Growth Fund.

The university is a hub for digital research and innovation and digital is one of its key research themes.

In the 2021 Research Excellence Framework, the university’s engineering research was rated as sixth in the UK for outstanding (four star) impact and computer science and informatics research was rated as fifth in the UK for world leading four star research outputs and 100% of its research environment rated as world leading (four star) or internationally excellent (three star).

Co-located in the DIF are the university’s Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC), STFC Hartree and the Civic Data Cooperative.

Steve Rotheram said: “The pandemic accelerated the move towards a more digital world and proved just how important connectivity and technology will increasingly be in all our lives.

“For me, it’s a no brainer for us to invest in projects that marry intelligent businesses with local research excellence and help develop this into practical and lucrative new applications. Our region is home to world class clusters of research, development and innovation. I truly believe that we have all the assets, capabilities – and the political will – to make our region the country’s innovation engine. The Digital Innovation Facility is a perfect example of that in a microcosm.

“It isn’t just a means of generating economic growth for our region either – but a duty we have to our residents to help deliver well paid jobs and improved public services. This is a £12.7m investment that will help us do just that.”

Prof Dame Janet Beer, vice chancellor of the University of Liverpool said: “The Digital Innovation Facility is an incredible asset, and we know it will have a significant positive impact on the city region and the North of England as a whole.

“The recent Research Excellence Framework highlighted our strengths and expertise in the areas of computer science, robotics and engineering and this facility will help business and industry access this expertise to lead the way in digital technologies, resulting in further collaborations, inward investment and economic growth.”

Digital Innovation Facility

Sir Robin Saxby said: “This world leading facility and team will play a key role in the region’s research and innovation capabilities, facilitating industry and academic collaboration in digital technologies with huge potential and opportunities across many sectors including data analysis, AI, robotics, health care and climate change. Liverpool’s global reach and connectivity will also stimulate what happens here.“

Dr Andy Levers, director of the DIF and executive director of the Institute for Digital Engineering and Autonomous Systems, said: “Through the DIF we have created a dedicated hub to facilitate access to our world leading facilities, expertise and support so that business, industry and other organisations can benefit from the exciting advances in computing, robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual engineering and maximise the possibilities and impact of these emerging technologies.”

The DIF is a key addition to the science and technology facilities in Liverpool’s Knowledge Quarter.