Birmingham City University’s (BCU) STEAMhouse – the innovation centre at the heart of Birmingham’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Maths) network and community – has today [14 March] launched its latest offering, the STEAMhouse Digital Labs. Created in partnership with global engineering consultancy Arup, the high-tech digital innovation hub is the new go-to facility for digital innovation and experimentation, and features a Growth Lab and Create Lab for digital innovators, as well as an Arup SoundLab® – the first located in England within a research institution.

The result of over £2.5million of investment, the Digital Labs are a high-tech addition to STEAMhouse’s existing facilities and services, serving both commercial and research purposes, and driving digital innovation through expertise, equipment, community, and collaborative spaces.

With an aim to help accelerate the growth of digitally focused businesses, the hub features three distinct but interconnected support areas:

  • A Growth Lab, in which digital start-ups and scale-ups can work collaboratively on product and business development,
  • a Create Lab – an adaptive space designed to help increase accessibility to the latest technologies for businesses, including cutting-edge spatial computing, virtual reality, motion reality capture and a podcasting studio setup.
  • and an Arup SoundLab®, an experiential environment equipped with an ambisonic loudspeaker array and 4k visuals, enabling high-accuracy creation of sonic environments within the built environment.

To officially launch the Labs, STEAMhouse hosted a ribbon cutting event yesterday evening [13 March], hosted by Vice Chancellor of Birmingham City University, Professor David Mba, and Arup Director and Birmingham Office Leader, James Watts.

The opening of the facility was a key opportunity for industry leaders from across the West Midlands to tour the spaces and immerse themselves in the equipment and facilities available.

Now fully open for use, the Digital Labs can be booked via the STEAMhouse website. STEAMhouse workspace members can benefit from access to all three labs – the SoundLab®, Growth Lab and Create Lab – throughout the duration of their membership, while non-STEAMhouse members can book individual sessions for both the Create Lab and the SoundLab®. PhD students from BCU’s Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment are already planning to use the SoundLab® in their research.

On the launch of the Digital Labs, Joanna Birch, Director of Innovation, Enterprise and Employability at BCU, comments:

“Since opening in 2018 our mission at STEAMhouse is to make innovation happen, supporting all businesses in finding ways to develop new ideas, products, services and business models to meet customer and citizen needs.  Co-creating and inspiring businesses is at the heart of what we do; Acknowledging the substantial growth opportunities across the digital space – the Digital Labs are a continuation of that mission.

“Each lab within the hub has been specifically designed to address the digital needs of those using it, but to also foster learning and development across industry. We want creatives to have access to business support, and students and academics to be able to use the latest digital equipment, while start-ups and scale-ups develop their products with the help of artists and engineers. Partnering with Arup and hosting its first and only SoundLab® in the West Midlands has enabled us to get even closer to that goal!”

Experiential Design Lead and Associate at Arup, Angus Deuchars, adds:

“Arup is delighted to share its SoundLab® technology with Birmingham City University. The exciting location of the STEAMhouse in Birmingham’s Innovation Quarter makes it well-positioned as an intersection of research and development, professional practice and academia. SoundLab® is a collaborative environment where users can hear and understand how design choices can shape future experiences – this ability will bring together research expertise and industry knowledge to impact our respective fields in new and meaningful ways. Arup has used this advanced technology to inform the design of some of the world’s best regarded arts and culture venues, and major transport and energy infrastructure programmes. We look forward to the innovative outcomes from this partnership.”  

More information about STEAMhouse, and their Digital Labs in particular, can be found via their website, here.

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