The University is working with the Port of Dover and the University of Manchester to create a digital twin of Dover harbour
The University of Plymouth is part of a new initiative seeking to develop a digital twin of Britain’s busiest port so it can ultimately continue operating during challenging ocean conditions.
The project, supported by a £333,585 grant from Innovate UK, will see academics from the University working with the Port of Dover and the University of Manchester to create and embed an AI-augmented digital twin of Dover harbour.
The funding underpins a three-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), that will harness the universities’ world-leading expertise in hydrodynamic modelling and cutting-edge research in AI and machine learning.
The University has been successfully working with companies in the South West, and across the UK, on KTP programmes for more than 40 years.
This particular initiative will complement its expertise across various maritime sectors, which has in recent years resulted in the development of research facilities including its Maritime Simulation Laboratory and Cyber-SHIP Lab.

This is an ambitious project and we are very excited about this collaboration with the University of Manchester and the Port of Dover. It presents a unique opportunity to bring together the knowledge of academia and industry, to combine our collective expertise and shape the port of the future. This experience will set a reference for the whole industry, and has the genuine potential to bring benefits worldwide.

Adan Lopez-SantanderAdan Lopez-Santander
Lecturer in Navigation and Maritime Science

The enhanced digital twin created through the new project will provide a dynamic 24-hour, 365-day-a-year all-weather simulation of the complex tidal flows across the harbour.
In turn, it will empower the researchers to predict with confidence the conditions essential for safe navigation in the Port of Dover.
The ultimate ambition is for the Port to remain operational during harsher weather conditions, and be able to welcome larger vessels and an even greater range of cruise and cargo ships.
This will enable greater operational efficiency and an increased volume of UK imports and exports, smoothing and enhancing the journey of £144bn worth of UK trade every year.

We are delighted to learn of the award of this KTP, and are thoroughly looking forward to working with the Universities of Manchester and Plymouth on this hugely exciting project, which will play a vital role in our journey to become the UK’s most seamless, sustainable, and tech-enabled port. The enhanced navigational analysis brought by the digital twin of Dover Harbour – Britain’s busiest Port – will extend our capability and operational hours and subsequently deliver a huge bonus of growth and productivity to the national economy.

Doug Bannister
Chief Executive of the Port of Dover 

This KTP is a great opportunity for the Universities of Plymouth and Manchester to form a strong partnership with the Port of Dover, integrate our knowledge across disciplinary boundaries to tackle real business challenges, and apply AI and emerging technologies to facilitate the digital transformation of the Port.

Professor Yu-wang Chen
Professor of Decision Sciences and Business Analytics at the University of Manchester 

Read more about our maritime research and facilities

Ship simulator

Maritime Simulation Laboratory

High power DC electric charging point

Clean Maritime

Cyber-SHIP Lab researchers at work

Cyber-SHIP Lab

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP)

The University is proud to be an early adopter of KTPs and has been successfully delivering programmes for over 40 years. 
The KTP scheme forms a valuable partnership between businesses, academics and graduates. Part-funded by government, the project promotes innovation and commercialisation, leading to increased productivity, profitability, and an average £1.6m of increased turnover* for businesses.
*5.10, page 37 in the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships Evaluation, August 2023, SQW 
business meeting