This summer Gordon Brown returned to Warwick campus in order to open the university’s state-of-the-art Digital Laboratory.
The Prime Minister’s relationship with the project has been ongoing – he laid the building’s foundation stone back in May 2007 as Chancellor of the Exchequer. This July, returning as Prime Minister to open the facility he cut the ribbon for the £13 million facility.
At the opening, Brown experienced an example of the sensory application of digital science, true to the technology that the building will champion. As he cut a virtual ribbon with computer-generated scissors, he experienced the same sensation as if he was cutting through a real ribbon.
The lab will be a new home to research in digital science, particularly digital manufacturing, mass customisation, digital healthcare and e-security. It is the first facility of its kind in the world. As such, it will prove a visionary addition to the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) and stand at the apex of 28 years of WMG research.
The building was the brainchild of Lord Bhattacharyya, without whom, the success of this project and the WMG itself seem difficult to imagine. The organisation which now commands a multi-million pound budget has been led by Lord Bhattacharyya since its humble beginnings (just an office, the Professor and his secretary) through to its now global notoriety.
In its mission statement the WMG say the new lab will help “to improve competitiveness through the application of innovation, new technologies and skills deployment, bringing new rigour to industrial and organisational practice”.
These sentiments were reflected at a glitch-free opening when Lord Bhattacharyya declared that “the Digital Lab is the future. We are bringing together some of the world’s top academics in digital technologies”. Gordon Brown added his praises, hailing the Laboratory as “breaking new ground that will make a huge difference to the technology in this country and the economy”.
The Digital Laboratory will fuse a wide variety of academic disciplines, including computer science, engineering, medicine and psychology. Initially the facility will only be open to postgraduates studying in the relevant fields of the WMG’s programme.
However, a fundamental requirement of the facility is that it delivers high-end education to Warwick students, meaning that new modules will be developed for other postgraduate courses relevant to the work.
One of the projects to be developed is the use of digital science to create life-like simulations for surgeons. They will also be able to use the new technology to imitate actual conditions in the operating theatre and gain valuable practice without the use cadavers.
Moreover, the lab will keep vital Warwick’s links to industry which have been the core of the university since its founding. But even those of us which will only ever see the building from the outside will notice its architectural brilliance – with its striking profile and new precedence for green construction on campus.