Lancaster University

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Infolab21 - New North West ICT Centre of Excellence

06/13/2003 12:29:23

Lancaster University is developing a brand new £15 million world class centre of excellence in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), with backing from the Northwest Development Agency (NWDA) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The building complex, to be known as InfoLab21, will be completed by Autumn 2004 and will provide new research facilities for computing and telecommunications. In addition, the project will provide facilities for technology transfer and incubation of high tech companies based on University expertise.

InfoLab21 is designed to have a substantial impact on the area, improving computing skills and creating a cluster of related technology businesses.

Two top ranking University departments will be relocating to the new building.

The Computing Department is one of the leading research departments in the UK receiving substantial external funding for its research from the UK research councils, the DTI, the European Commission and industry. High Profile research projects include Internet and mobile computing with funding from major international companies, and a project working on information systems in the National Health Service, which examines how computer systems can be used to help doctors assess mammograms for possible tumours.

The department of Communications Systems is internationally recognised for its contribution to many fields of communications including broadcasting, multimedia technologies, telephone, wireless and satellite communications and navigational devices for ships , aircrafts, rockets and satellites.

Research projects include developing techniques for the transmission of data over power lines in conjunction with NORWEB Communications and developing a skin cancer Image Recognition System.

The Business and Enterprise Centre

The Business Enterprise Centre (BEC) will develop the primary interface between the University and regional businesses, facilitating SME access to the University's academic and technological resources. The centre will also operate out of InfoLab21.

With the backing of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the support of established business services such as Business Link, the University is launching a range of new business projects specifically for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The aim is to develop a working partnership between the University and local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), making its vast knowledge base accessible to the business world.

The projects are part of the government's "third mission" which aims to bring universities, businesses and communities together. The ERDF funding allows Lancaster University to offer its support to local businesses and the projects will make a significant difference locally, promoting long-term business growth, forging lasting business relationships and enhancing economic prospects in the region.

Lancaster University is one of the top 10 research-led universities in the UK and is the strongest research-led university in the North West.

Lancaster University's Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings said 'InfoLab21 will enable industry to obtain competitive advantages from the research strengths, international networking and links with multinational companies of the University. It will also support growth in the vital ICT cluster, through skills training. The InfoLab21 concept is in line with Lancaster City Council's development plans for Lancaster and it also sits within the Government's plans for using Universities as power houses for the economy.'

Brian Gray, Chairman of the Northwest Development Agency commented: 'The aim of this exciting plan is to create scientific and knowledge based growth, driven by the expertise of Lancaster University. The NWDA realises the strategic importance of this significant project and we are delighted to see it come to fruition. InfoLab21 is an excellent example of what can be achieved when we work in partnership to capitalise on the expertise that exists within this field in the Northwest.'

Funding for the project has been provided by:

Northwest Development Agency: £10m

Lancaster University: £2.5m

ERDF (via a virtual Economic Development Zone): £2.5m

The building is located in a prominent position visible from the M6 motorway and has been designed by FaulknerBrown Architects. The scheme went out to tender in spring 2002 and HBG Construction has been appointed as preferred contractor. The planning advisors were Insignia Richard Ellis.

In addition to InfoLab21, the University has also been given the go-ahead on £120 million redevelopment plans to provide 4,500 new and replacement residences on campus with our development partner Jarvis. We will also complete the £12 million Lancaster Environment Centre during autumn next year, which will bring together environmental researchers from the University and the National Environment Research Council's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, to form one of the largest groups of its kind in Europe.

It should be evident to all that the University is going from strength to strength and is a major asset for Cumbria and Lancashire.