A £50 million investment in a digital laboratory at Warwick University could be doubled with work beginning on a second lab next year.

The first lab, thought to be the first of its kind in the world, has reached the half-way point in its construction and is due to open next September.

The development, which is be operated by Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), will accommodate up to 500 academics and researchers.

Companies in the Midlands and beyond will be able to use its computer technology to develop new products and improve their production techniques.

But Professor Kumar Bhattacharyya, director and founder of WMG, said another £50 million laboratory could follow almost immediately.

He said: "This is the first phase of a £100 million spend. This is digital one, and digital two could be added to take on other things.

"We will have a state-of-the-art digital laboratory. No other country in the world has this sort of facility apart from in large companies.

"This will be able to help not just manufacturers, but also medical technology. It will be able to model the cell as it develops and give first-rate visualisation.

"It will also be able to work on developing e-security. Lots and lots of technology companies, from telematics to materials technology to the automotive industry can benefit.

"The future of the automotive industry is digital. Every car that is produced is jam-packed with things that are digital."

Prof Bhattacharyya said the lab would complement WMG's existing work with Jaguar and Land Rover through the Premier Automotive Research and Development and Tata.

"WMG works with hundreds of sup-pliers as well. This will help them develop new products and improve their processes in future.

"My ambition is to make this a state-of-the-art facility for the West Midlands, that will be an icon. It will be a focal point for research excellence."

The digital laboratory would also be able to help in the health service by providing training opportunities through Warwick Medical School for surgeons in simulated 'virtual' operating theatres.

The Digital Lab, will also conduct seminars and advice on technology for regional companies, and strategy discussions that will involve individual workshops to review the opportunities for small to medium sized businesses.

Prof Bhattacharyya was speaking as WMG signed a collaboration with engineering consultancy Arup, which employs 600 people at Blythe Valley Business Park in Solihull.

The arrangement will mean both organisations work together in research, training and the identification and exploitation of business opportunities.

They will jointly promote design excellence and sustainable development, transferring ideas and know-how to other businesses and users.

It will also include existing projects which include post-graduate and post-experience training and internships, sustainable manufacturing, manufacturing research, experiential engineering in building design, and the Warwick Digital Lab.

Prof Bhattacharyya said: "This is a landmark for both organisations. Working with industry and the wider business world has always been core to WMG's ethos and activities.

"But this partnership with Arup will allow us both to move into new fields and markets, jointly achieving more than we could alone."