Sense of pride as Infolab21 marks 10th anniversary

Picture by Julian Brown for The LEP 16/02/15''Jon Whittle, head of the School of Computing and Communications, pictured with other staff members outside Infolab 21, Lancaster University, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this week.
Picture by Julian Brown for The LEP 16/02/15''Jon Whittle, head of the School of Computing and Communications, pictured with other staff members outside Infolab 21, Lancaster University, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this week.

Lancaster University’s Infolab21 - built to create links between academia and the business world - is 10 years old this month.

By now a well recognised structure from the M6 northbound, the building houses the School of Computing and Communications and includes the academic department and the Knowledge Business Centre (KBC).

Built with funding from the former North West Development Agency (NWDA) and ERDF (European Regional Development Fund), the objectives were to engage the university with local and regional businesses - with research results applied into the real world.

It houses around 250 people including 50 academic staff plus various support staff, Phd students and post doc researchers, and there are currently 14 small to medium enterprise businesses occupying 93 per cent of the letable space. 

Prof Jon Whittle took over the role of head of the School of Computing and Communications last year.

Prof Whittle said that since its inception, Infolab21 has had a big impact on computer science research.

He said: “We’ve had very strong results nationally in the Research Excellence Framework. In December 2014, league tables showed that computing at Lancaster is 12th overall in the UK, and if you look at quality of research - specifically research outputs which are world-leading or internationally excellent - we come 7th. We’ve had collaboration with Microsoft Research on using the Microsoft Kinect for surgeons in operating theatres, to using artificial intelligence to identify potential paedophiles in chat rooms. The guys developed a system that could look at the language and estimate the age of the user, and the information would then be passed on to the police.”

Prof Whittle said the school had a practical approach to research with the adage “we build what we study; we study what we build”.

“We welcome both local and international technology based companies that have the ability to grow through access to cutting-edge research.

“InfoLab21 is a great place to work. It has a unique combination of cutting-edge academic researchers working alongside companies. Much of our research is interdisciplinary – our staff work with academics from across the university. We have a culture where working across disciplines is not only possible but encouraged.

“This event will look back on what we have achieved in InfoLab21 in the last ten years, as well as highlight key emerging growth areas for our research in cybersecurity, data science and healthcare technologies.”

Prof Gordon Blair, who was head of department for five years said: “We look back with a great sense of pride about what we have achieved during the last ten years, in creating a world-leading centre for computing and communications technology that is unique in its breadth and also in its strong relationship with business and other societal stakeholders.”