West Midland universities have lost the opportunity to play host to digital “hubs” as part of a £36?million investment to ensure no one is excluded from the government’s vision for a digital Britain.
The University or Birmingham, the University of Warwick and Birmingham City University all applied to be part of the Digital Britain project, funded by Research Councils UK, but their bids were trumped by universities in Nottingham, Newcastle and Aberdeen.
The digital hubs, which will focus on developing digital technology to transform the lives of the older people, people with disabilities and those living in rural communities, were announced by Lord Drayson, Minister of State for Science and Innovation. The investment builds on plans to make broadband available to everyone in the UK and is the biggest investment ever made by the research councils in creating a digital Britain to transform all aspects of business, society and government.
All three West Midland universities confirmed they had put in a bid to be part of the project.
A spokeswoman from the University of Birmingham said: “We were disappointed that our bid was unsuccessful, but were pleased that we got through to the interview stage against very strong competition.”
The University of Warwick also confirmed that it had been unsuccessful in its bid for the research programme, but pointed to its existing strength in digital research.
A University of Warwick spokesman said: “We did bid for this research programme but were unsuccessful on this occasion. That award will give around £12?million each to the three successful universities.
“They will still have some way to go to catch up with Warwick’s digital research as the University of Warwick already has its new £12.5?million digital lab which was opened by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and was visited this very day by the Minister for Digital Engagement Tom Watson.”
“That lab has already attracted several large digital research awards including a £4?million partnership with NHS West Midlands to establish an Institute of Digital Healthcare and £1.5?million for research into digital security.”
Mr Watson yesterday visited the WMG Digital Lab at the University of Warwick to see how researchers are using virtual reality to help parents of babies cope with feeding problems.
Birmingham City University also drew attention to its digital expertise.
“Digital technology continues to be an important area for Birmingham City University, the city and the region as a whole and the university continues to seek funding for research and knowledge transfer in this field,” said a spokesman.
Research Councils UK are funding the Digital Britain initiative which will develop new technologies utilising wireless networks and GPS.
Highlights of the research to be carried out include a small wireless body systems monitoring kit that could help revolutionise NHS emergency response systems, “walking satnav” devices that can help older pedestrians navigate around shopping centres and early warning flood systems for rural residents and businesses.