World-class academic
research & industrial application

Since its founding in 1881, the University of Liverpool’s mission has been the advancement of learning and the ennoblement of life.


Our mission is to drive the translation and industrial adoption of emerging digital technologies to empower companies to innovate and deliver sustainable economic growth and technical development.

Global grand challenges from clean energy and sustainable manufacturing, to the net-zero economy and healthy ageing, represent the need for an enormous shift in how we do business. These challenges will only be challenged by boldly and creatively harnessing the full potential of digital technologies for transforming industries and economies to ensure a cleaner, healthier, and more inclusive future.


The Digital Innovation Facility is accelerating the translation of research and development to:

  • Enable companies to fully harness and apply the potential of digital technologies to societal challenges.

  • Create a unique network of people, facilities, innovation, and enterprise.

  • Take leadership of research development and innovative processes for taking advantage of next-generation digital technologies.

  • Fostering a positive and inclusive culture for digital technologies skills development, training, and impact.

The Digital Innovation Facility  is accelerating the translation  of research and development to:

A hub of digital innovation

Since 2010, we have been delivering bespoke solutions to our clients across sectors using; Digital Twin, AI and Data Analytics, Advanced Visualisation, Modelling, Simulation and Robotics and Autonomous Systems technologies.

Access to World-Class Research and Expertise

The Digital Engineering Facility brings together a unique multi-disciplinary team of engineers, scientists and technologists from one of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities. These experts and their research teams have proven track records of delivering real-world industrial applications and impact.

Paired with the state-of-the-art facilities of the Digital Innovation Facility and supported by a team of research commercialisation and industrial translation experts, the Digital Innovation Facility provides a new paradigm for the industrial application of new technologies.

DIF Team

  • Professor Katie Atkinson
  • Professor Eann Patterson
  • Simon Christopher
  • Dr Konstantin Vikhorev
  • Ben Alston
  • Andy Cooper
  • Simon Maskell
  • Xiaowei Huang
  • Sebastiano Fichera
  • Mike Jump
  • Anh Nguyen
  • Elias Griffith
  • Alan Marshall
  • Professor Andrew Levers

Professor Katie Atkinson

A Professor of Computer Science and Dean of the School of Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Liverpool, UK.

Professor Katie Atkinson’s research is on the subject of computational models of argument, which is a topic within the general field of artificial intelligence. A particular focus of their research is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Law, specifically computational argumentation for modelling legal reasoning.

Professor Katie Atkinson works on both fundamental aspects of these research topics and applications in collaboration with industry partners and has published over one hundred and fifty research papers.

Professor Katie Atkinson also served as President of the International Association for AI and Law in 2016 and 2017 and was appointed to serve on the Computer Science and Informatics sub-panel in the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.

Professor Eann Patterson

Professor Eann Patterson has been in Liverpool since 2011 as the A.A. Griffith Chair of Structural Materials and Mechanics. A Visiting Senior Fellow at the National Nuclear Laboratory and an Honorary Visiting Professor at National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, Eann is also a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Society for Experimental Mechanics.

Previously in the Department of Mechanical Engineering (Chair, 2004-09) at Michigan State University, USA; and the Department of Mechanical Engineering (Head, 2001-04) at the University of Sheffield, Eann was a founding member and Director of the Composite Vehicle Research Centre at Michigan State University.

Simon Christopher

Simon is a customer success manager with extensive experience in all aspects of stakeholder and project management with a proven track record of exceeding expectations through dedication and hard work. 

Simon has experience of working with the UK defence community, including tendering and bid management, having led and won bids for DASA and Innovate UK projects. Simon is a qualified Agile Project Manager and has a track record of managing complex projects with partners to ensure that they are delivered on time and on budget.

Simon’s role is to work with the University of Liverpool’s world-leading researchers in the fields of Data, AI and robotics to translate their research into products and services that may be of interest to partners and commercial organisations. This includes the identification of potential bid opportunities, bid writing, project management and stakeholder management. Working with our core partners and with the wider commercial team within the University, Simon is developing a network of partner organisations that will work with the University on future projects as well as creating a career path for the University’s graduates and PhD students. 

Dr Konstantin Vikhorev

Dr Konstantin Vikhorev leads all Industrial Digitalisation projects at the Digital Innovation Facility in his capacity as Head of Digital Engineering. Konstantin has excellent track record of delivering large commercial and academic projects. Konstantin has background in Aerospace and System Engineering. He has a lot of experience in area of developing Digital Twins and Digital Frameworks for complex engineering systems such as power plants and unmanned aerial vehicles. His industry focus includes high-fidelity distributed simulation, AI algorithms and development of digital testbeds.

Konstantin core responsibilities include overseeing delivery of the design and development of industrial applications projects for the UK Northwest region SME community under the VEC’s regional innovation portfolio.

Ben Alston

Dr Ben Alston is the Centre Manager for the Leverhulme Research Centre for Functional Materials Design, where the fundamental aim is to drive a design revolution for functional materials by fusing chemical knowledge and state-of the-art computer science with industry leading mobile robotics.

Research Themes: Research carried out at the Centre will focus on changing the way we design new materials. This research spans a number of key themes:

Theme 1 – Computational Materials Design

Theme 2 – Experimental Materials Design

Theme 3 – Intelligent Automation & Robotics

Theme 4 – Harnessing Exponential Knowledge via AI & ML

Research Opportunities: Through education and training we aim to develop research capacity and capability within the centre. 

Ben received his PhD in inorganic electrochemical catalysis in 2013 followed by two PDRA positions in development of laboratory automation methods at the Centre for Materials Discovery In 2017, he was appointed as a Research Fellow within the Leverhulme Research Centre for Functional Materials Design and Theme Leader for Intelligent automation, co-supervising the development of the first mobile robotic chemist. 

Ben has experience within the industrial automation sector with world leading robotics and laboratory automation providers such as Chemspeed Technologies where he was Head of Operations. 

Ben also currently occupies the role of Chief Product Officer for the university spin out company Gearu who focus on commercialising the implementation of mobile robotics into research laboratories. He also currently sits on the external scientific advisory board for the University of Bristol CDT in Technology Enhanced Chemical Synthesis and Imperial College ATALS project and is a member of the board of Trustees for the Society for Chemical Industry.

Andy Cooper

Professor Cooper is a materials chemist at the University of Liverpool and leads an internationally recognised group whose portfolio covers porous materials, porous organic cages, microporous materials, clathrates, polymers, nanoparticles, nanomaterials, high throughput methods

After his Ph.D., he held an 1851 Fellowship and a Royal Society NATO Fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA, working on polymerisation reactions and phase transfer processes in supercritical CO2. He then held a Ramsay Memorial Research Fellowship at the Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis in Cambridge. In 1998, he was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship and joined Liverpool in January 1999, where he now holds a Personal Chair. 

His main research interests are polymeric materials, supercritical fluids, microporous materials, hydrogen storage, metal nanoparticles, organometallics, emulsion-templated materials, and high-throughput materials methodology. He is the founding Director of the Centre for Materials Discovery and the Materials Innovation Factory

The Cooper groups activities in the Digital Innovation Facility are focussed on laboratory automation and the use of artificial intelligence and robotics to deliver the lab of the future. 

Simon Maskell

Professor Simon Maskell sits at the interface between Computer Science, Engineering and Statistics, and is focused on developing ground-breaking algorithmic solutions that can be translated into tangible advantage across multiple sectors in both industry and government.

Simon is a Professor of Autonomous Systems at the University of Liverpool within the School of Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Computer Science where he is the Director of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Distributed Algorithms, which seeks to train 60 future leaders in next-generation data science. Simon is also President of the International Society of Information Fusion, the professional body associated with combining data from disparate sources to generate information that can inform decision making.

Simon uses a combination of numerical Bayesian statistics and High-Performance Computing to generate state-of-the-art solutions that can make a difference in the context of important real-world problems. The solutions that Simon has developed have, for example, benefited organisations operating within defence, security, insurance, petrochemicals, health and transport. A recent pertinent example was work at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic which led to the UK government using a model developed by Simon’s team as part of the process for calculating England’s R-Number.

Currently teaching “Control Theory”, Simon also historically taught “Image Processing” and a Big Data Analytics module as part of the MSc on Big Data and High Performance Computing (being delivered in partnership with the UK centre for supercomputing at STFC’s Hartree Centre).

Xiaowei Huang

A Professor of Computer Science at the University of Liverpool, Xiaowei runs a research group focusing on multi-disciplinary areas including machine learning, formal methods, and robotics including the analysis of autonomous systems that can independently learn, adapt, and make decisions by themselves with regards to safety, robustness, trustworthiness and security for safety critical applications.

Current focus areas include self-driving cars, underwater vehicles and other robotics applications. The team are also interested in various healthcare applications where safety and interpretability are important. The research has been funded by Dstl, EPSRC, European Commission. 

Dr Xiaowei Huang’s background is model-based formal engineering for intelligent systems, covering their specification, implementation, verification, and assurance. 

Recently, Dr Huang’s research has been focused on the safety and dependability analysis of deep learning and Dr Xiaowei Huang is still considered as the worldwide leader in this field today as the lead author of a series of high impact works on the verification methods for deep learning. 

Dr Xiaowei Huang has been the key developer of several UK and EU funded research projects on rigorous engineering methods for deep learning and deep learning enabled robotics systems.   

Sebastiano Fichera

Dr Sebastiano Fichera is a Lecturer in Aerospace Engineering and has a keen interest in linear and non-linear aeroelasticity and active control. 

Dr Sebastiano Fichera teaches in two disciplines including:

Aerostructures: Introducing advanced aspects of structural analysis, relating the mathematical concepts to airframe designs and industrial practice.

Aircraft Design: Aerospace Design to enable the students to analyse, discuss and design the components of general aviation and large civil aircraft.

Areas of expertise include:

  • Aeroelastic model design (featuring complex interactions of aero- and structural dynamics as well as actuation and sensing)
  • Wind tunnel testing
  • Active control in real time environments
  • Morphing systems

Sebastiano is also a co-founder and technical director for Robotiz3d Ltd, a University of Liverpool spinoff that develops robotics solutions for the construction industry.

His main research collaborations is with Airbus (both across Spain and the UK).

Mike Jump

Having been sponsored by the then British Aerospace, Mike graduated from the University of Bristol in 1994 with a First Class BEng (Honours) degree in Aeronautical Engineering. He continued into industry serving as an Aerodynamicist working on a range of aircraft types including Hawk, Tornado and Eurofighter. Mike moved into a consultancy role primarily working in the aerospace Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul industry working with GE and Lufthansa, amongst others. A move back into academia resulted in Mike graduating with a PhD from the University of Liverpool in 2007. The research applied a theory from Ecological Psychology (Tau Theory) to the design and development of pilot displays, leading to the award of a US patent. Mike was then appointed as Lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at The University of Liverpool 2007 – 2014 and then Senior Lecturer 2014 to the present date.

Mike’s overarching research aim is to improve the safety of flight through a deep understanding of the vehicles being used and the human operators that are required to use them. The main focus of this research has been for manned flight, particularly in rotary-wing vehicles, but is increasingly reaching into the unmanned aviation and robotics arena. Mike’s research projects include the understanding of adverse aircraft/rotorcraft pilot couplings (more popularly known as Pilot-Induced Oscillations), the use of Tau Theory as applied to flight dynamics and control, the design of novel personal aircraft types and their associated handling qualities and the design and use of unmanned aerial vehicles for practical applications.

With his industrial background, Mike is keen to ensure that our students gain real-world practical experience in solving engineering problems. This is achieved ideally through the medium of student competitions. 

Anh Nguyen

Dr Anh Nguyen is a Lecturer in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and an Interim Director for the Smart Robotic Laboratory within the University of Liverpool’s Department of Computer Science. 

Previously working at the Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery, Imperial College London, Australian National University, and The University of Adelaide, Dr Anh Nguyen’s research goal is to develop methods that enable robots to see and act like humans.

Dr Anh Nguyen works with students and industry to better understand robotic perception and applies solutions to problems which can in-turn improve our quality of life. Working closely with the School of Engineering and students from across Electrical Engineering and Chemistry, the teams offer businesses a wider understanding of multiple disciplinaries through access to a wide range of capabilities and unique specialists. 

Dr Anh Nguyen key research interests include: 

  • Vision: Segmentation, detection, and medical imaging
  • Learning: Deep learning, deep reinforcement learning, federated learning
  • Robotics: Autonomous navigation and manipulation including medical robotics

Elias Griffith

Elias is a Research Associate within the Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics, working with Professor Alan Marshall and the wider team within the Immersive Laboratory at the Digital Innovation Facility.

With a PhD in Quantum Computing, Elias holds an interest in physics and image processing and was part of the Signal Processing research group. Elias has expertise within navigation, quantum computing, sensor fusion and computer vision. He has previously worked at QinetiQ as part of the training and simulation group where he has supported the building of simulators for manned and unmanned aircraft.

Currently, Elias composes research linked to the development of distributed virtual environments, autonomous systems and robotics, including human interaction with robots in VR.

Alan Marshall

Professor Alan Marshall holds the chair in Communications Networks at the University of Liverpool where he is director of the Advanced Networks Group and Head of Electrical Engineering and Electronics department and runs the multisensory Immersive Laboratory within the Digital Innovation Facility. He has been active on a number of local and national committees making recommendations on future directions for Telecommunications in Northern Ireland and the UK. He is the UK Lead for the “UK-Jiangsu World-class Universities Initiative”

He has spent over 30 years working in, and with, the Telecommunications and Defence Industries and in 2003 developed the first ‘Internet handshake’ transferring haptic information across separate destinations. 


Professor Alan Marshall has published over 250 scientific papers and holds several joint patents in the areas of communications and network security. 

He formed the spin-out company Traffic Observation & Management (TOM) Ltd specializing in intrusion detection & prevention for public access and open wireless networks in 2007. 

Professor Andrew Levers

Professor Andrew Levers oversees all strategic, research and operational activities of the Digital Innovation Facility and its sister organisation VEC. He has extensive experience building large scale innovation consortium and has worked across the C-Suite in research, SMEs, and multinational companies, delivering a circa of £45million to Innovation Projects.

In his previous roles Andy has been Technical Director of the VEC where he led the award winning LCR4.0 group of programmes and worked closely with academic and industrial partners to deliver a revolutionary BEIS funded project to developing a new architecture for Digital Reactor Design in the energy sector.

Prior to joining the VEC Andy was Technical Director at Survitec Group where he brought in-depth knowledge and understanding of design and manufacturing engineering functions. In 2004 he received the Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining Gold Medal for the development and industrialisation of the Age Creep Forming process for the Airbus A380.

Andy has delivered high value and complex engineering projects across Asia and Europe. He brings a unique cross cultural and interdisciplinary perspective to applied innovation.