After studying mathematics and computer science in Amsterdam, Frank moved to the Department of AI in Edinburgh, where he was awarded a PhD in 1989 for his research on meta-level reasoning. While in Edinburgh, he co-developed a logic-based toolkit for expert systems, and worked with Prof. Alan Bundy on proof planning for inductive theorem proving.
After his PhD research, he moved back to Amsterdam where he worked from 1990 to 1995 in the SWI Department under Prof. Wielinga, on the use of reflection in expert systems, and on the formal underpinnings of the CommonKADS methodology for Knowledge-Based Systems. In 1995 he joined the AI research group at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, where he now leads the Knowledge Representation and Reasoning Group.
Since 2000, Frank has played a leading role in the development of the Semantic Web, which aims to make data on the web semantically interpretable by machines through formal representations. He was co-PI on the first European Semantic Web project (OnToKnowledge, 1999), which laid the foundations for the Web Ontology Language OWL. OWL has become a worldwide standard, it is in wide commercial use, and has become the basis for an entire research community.
Frank co-authored the Semantic Web Primer, the first academic textbook of the field and now in its third edition, which is in worldwide use (translations in 5 languages, 10.000 copies sold of the English edition alone). He was one of the architects of Sesame, an RDF storage and retrieval engine, which is in wide academic and industrial use with over 200,000 downloads. This work received the 10-year impact award at the 11th International Semantic Web Conference in 2012, which is the most prestigious award in the field.
Frank is principal investigator of the Hybrid Intelligence Centre, a 20m€, 10 year collaboration between researchers at 6 Dutch universities into AI systems that collaborate with people instead of replacing them.
He is a fellow of the European AI Society ECCAI (membership limited to 3% of all European AI researchers), in 2014, he was admitted as member of the Academia Europaea (limited to the top 5% of researchers in each field), and in 2015 he was admitted as Member of the Royal Netherlands Society of Sciences and Humanities (500 members across all sciences). He is a guest professor at the Wuhan University of Science and Technology (WUST) in Wuhan, China.