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Digital Engineering

Digital Engineering uses the latest digital technologies to optimise engineering design.

By bringing digital and physical technologies into manufacturing, production and logistics, Industrialisation Digitalisation Technologies (IDTs) are driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Digital engineering at the University of Exeter 

Our expertise can support you in:

  • Optimising product design
  • Increasing speed to market
  • Strengthening supply chains
  • Developing a new business
  • Improving productivity
  • Enhancing manufacturing processes

Research specialisms in digital engineering

Our academics work closely with the autonomous vehicle industry to understand how our computer science and engineering specialisms can address and solve some of the problems faced by this growing industry.

We are developing autonomous behaviours for air, land and marine robotic vehicles, which aim to reduce operator intervention and risk, and enhance safety.

We offer particular specialisms in:

  • extreme environments such as deep sea, mining and space,
  • modelling of pre-attentive vision in driving,
  • processing of visual and network data in UAVs,
  • control systems.

Visual attention and autonomous control

Our Computer Vision group are collaborating with the University of Surrey to investigate what proportion of a driver's actions are pre-attentive, versus how many rely on visual attention. The collaboration are also exploring how a team of autonomous robots could plan their actions and motions to discover a new environment efficiently. Find out more in the video below.

Automation and the law

Within the Law School, Dr Matthew Channon’s research focuses on driverless cars and the law, and he is author of the first substantive text on these legal issues. His wider research interests include law and autonomy, working particularly on drones and autonomous ships.

Academic lead

Dr Prathyush Menon

The High Performance Computing and Networking group investigate the computational and networking challenges associated with modern information and communications paradigms.

Our £3m high-performance computing (HPC) facility enables advanced research in AI, data science and simulation.

It combines a traditional HPC cluster with a virtualised cluster environment, providing a range of node types in a single machine. It is the first of its kind in a UK university.

Academic lead

Professor Geyong Min

Supply chain optimisation

The materials and manufacturing group's research in adaptively-evolving supply chains in the context of global operational environments has had an impact across the world.

Our expertise includes:

  • Agile manufacturing
  • Supply chain management and optimisation
  • Dynamically Integrated Manufacturing Systems (DIMS)
  • Multi-agent systems
  • Low-carbon systems


Exeter Technologies Group work closely with industry to develop new materials and processes with high performance polymers, tailored for specific end product requirements.

We are the only university worldwide researching high temperature laser sintering using the EOS P 800 platform.

In recent projects we have developed:

  • demonstrator parts for bracketry and ducting of aircraft (metal replacements)
  • new lightweight wheel technology for aircraft,
  • and automotive brake components.

Academic lead

Professor Oana Ghita

Our research focuses on manufacturing 4.0 and the role of AI in optimisation of design tools and processes, scheduling and logistics.

We specialise in methods including:

  • stochastic optimisation,
  • multi- and many-objective optimisation,
  • robust optimisation,
  • and human-AI optimisation.

The University of Exeter is a member of the Alan Turing Institute, which includes a portfolio of data-centric engineering activities. We are also home to the Institute for Data Science & Artificial Intelligence (IDSAI).

Industry collaborations

We work with industry partners on projects such as:

  • complex aerodynamic optimisation,
  • vibration damping insert optimisation,
  • diesel particle tracking,
  • network asset management and operation,
  • and wireless and mobile network design optimisation.

For example, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is fundamental to modern engineering design, but takes a long time to complete. Our Evolutionary Computing and Optimisation research group are using machine learning to develop computationally simpler 'surrogate' models. These can be used in place of full CFD evaluation to increase productivity.

Academic lead

Professor Ed Keedwell

The University of Exeter is internationally recognised for its work in robust and fault tolerant control, validation and verification. These play an important role in safety critical systems and in guaranteeing the success of autonomous missions.

The Control Systems group have developed industrial solutions for companies including Airbus and ESA.

The group specialise in improving intelligent autonomy through:

  • Verification, validation, and creating practical tools to identify "worst case" performance
  • evaluating safety and failure probabilities
  • creating guidance methods to plan vehicle paths in unknown hazardous environments
  • reconstructing faults and failures in real time through model-based fault detection and condition monitoring.

We are also enhancing launch and recovery of assets from motherships.

Academic lead

Dr Prathyush Menon

The Computational Engineering group are developing simulation tools for design. Our research extends fundamental scientific understanding and implements this in design tools.

These tools are in use by companies in aerospace, marine, automotive and other sectors. They drive increased competitiveness and productivity, from fracture prediction tools for composites, to heat recovery and process optimisation in the food sector.

Our expertise includes:

  • multiscale modelling
  • design optimisation methods
  • advanced Computational Fluid Dynamics, Finite Element Analysis and Discrete Element Analysis modelling methods
  • vibration damping
  • reduced order and surrogate modelling for speed-up
  • simulation of fretting wear
  • structural health monitoring,
  • High Performance Computing for Computational Fluid Dynamics,
  • non-linear dynamics.

Academic lead

Professor Chris Smith

Digital Materials are the result of using computer numerical and analytical models to design and make composites with two or more constituent parts in specific concentrations and geometries.

The aim is to create new materials (‘metamaterials’) with valuable and bespoke characteristics that provide performance beyond those found in our conventional palette. This can include extraordinary electromagnetic (ranging from infra-red, optical, THz to RF), acoustics (underwater and airborne), thermal or mechanical properties.

Industry collaborations

Our experts in digital materials have extensive and long-standing connections with industrial and academic partners. Most recent projects have included the development of:

  • Substrates for compact and lightweight communication antennas
  • Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) tags that work on metal packaging, electronics or polarisable liquids
  • Advanced electromagnetic wave simulator for modelling the response of high-frequency RF and microwave components
  • Surfaces that delay the onset of turbulence, and reduce wakes and noise
  • Ultra-low power electronic displays
  • Dynamic masks for THz high-resolution imaging in the operating theatre

Read more about our work and case studies

Academic lead

Professor Alastair Hibbins


For more information or to discuss a project, please contact:

Rebecca Adams, Senior Impact and Partnership Development Manager, or

Professor Christopher Smith, Deputy Associate Dean for Research (Industry).

Success stories