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Innovative AI-enabled engineering lab boosts regional business development

The Heart of the South West LEP has announced £118,000 funding for the Centre for Future Clean Mobility, to develop a new AI engineering lab.

The ACE-Lab (AI-enabled Co-design in Engineering Laboratory), is managed by the University of Exeter’s Centre for Future Clean Mobility at Exeter Science Park. The innovative project will offer a unique blend of human-AI interaction for designing novel products, systems, and services.

ACE-Lab will actively engage in collaborations with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region, establishing strong industry connections. The lab is equipped to offer expertise in optimising a diverse range of solutions needed by local businesses.

Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, said: “This funding extension is a significant step toward advancing scientific excellence in the South West. Projects like ACE-Lab underpin our region’s technological capabilities, ultimately driving economic growth, jobs and innovation.”

The University of Exeter is a leader in AI-enabled Human-in-the-loop machine learning. This facility would give it an edge over competitors, offering dedicated powerful computers and visualisation equipment, industrial engineering hardware systems, and access to industry engineering experts to help train the AI systems. 

Director of the Centre for Future Clean Mobility, Professor Christopher Smith, said: “The ACE-Lab will enable us to achieve a much greater level of digital activity in the modelling, simulation and optimisation of clean mobility solutions for individual transport assets (vessels, vehicles and fleets). 

“The new lab will combine state-of-the-art computation for AI and machine learning, virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D sensing and printing capability with our expertise in world-leading optimisation and machine learning research, to transform the capability of clean mobility for businesses in the South West.”

Find out more about the Centre of Future Clean Mobility. 


Comprised of business leaders from across our key sectors, the LEP Board oversees the programme of infrastructure, business support and skills projects being delivered by 2025.

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      David Ralph

      Chief Executive

      David Ralph started as Chief Executive of Heart of South West LEP at the beginning of June 2018. Previously, he had spent 5 years as CEO of the Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire (D2N2) LEP from 2013 where he oversaw the development of the D2N2 Strategic Economic Plan and sector strategies, 3 Growth Deals with HM Government to deliver a £1billion capital investment programme, securing and implementing £200m ESIF programme, the Derby and Nottingham Enterprise Zone, the D2N2 Skills Deal and Time for Innovation programme, community fund and led the executive team to develop the HS2 East Midlands hub. He was also closely involved in the proposed North Midlands Devolution Deal and one of the key architects in establishing the Midlands Engine, chairing the officer steering group. Whilst in this role David was a NED of the Nottingham Enterprise Zone, and Marketing NG, the Outer Estates Foundation and a Governor of Nottingham College and on the advisory Board of Nottingham Business School.

      Before the East Midlands, David was CEO of the Have Gateway Partnership working closely with local stakeholders including the ports of Felixstowe, Harwich and Ipswich and BT Adadastral Park across Suffolk and Essex and prior to that was Chief Exec of the Barton Hill New Deal for Communities programme in Bristol and the Nelm Development Trust in Norwich.

      David is a keen sailor, walker and trail runner.