£3.4m virtual reality hub to open in Birmingham

More than £3 million will be invested to create a new virtual reality and technology hub in the heart of Birmingham.

Birmingham City University has landed £3.4 million funding to create the new technological centre which will be based at its STEAMhouse facility in Birmingham’s Digbeth district. 

The funding will be used to purchase state-of-the-art equipment such as virtual reality development packs, computer hardboards and the latest design software, to help boost business growth and support innovation.

It will also see the opening of a new Digital Design Suite at the site.
Funding for the project has been secured from the European Structural and Investment Funds, Birmingham City University and Eastside Projects.

The project will provide training for businesses on some of the newest and emerging technologies, providing a platform for innovation, the development of new ideas and the creation of new start-ups.

Facilities will be created to allow people to access the latest in Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality technology, as well as new Digital Circuitry and Digital Design services, alongside a full programme of business support.

The technology could have an impact on a range of key sectors including health and education, as well as supporting the development of new products.
Businesses will be given training in the use of the technologies.

Professor Julian Beer (pictured), deputy vice-chancellor at Birmingham City University, said: “We opened STEAMhouse to provide a space and a platform for businesses to collaborate with artists and academics, to drive innovation and new business ideas.

“This funding will allow us to provide a new wave of state-of-the-art equipment which will have a major impact on how businesses work in the future and the creation of new industries.

“Incorporating artistry and creativity alongside science and tech disciplines can be a major driving force not just in transforming how a concept goes from design to market, but also the real world difference it will make to users.

“Technology like virtual reality, augmented reality, 5G and digital design will pave the way for the business of the future and now is the time for us to look at how we can harness this for the benefit of the economy.

The project has been tailored to meet the priorities of the region’s Local Enterprise Partnership.

The next phase of the STEAMhouse project is currently underway, which will see redevelopment of a historic Birmingham building.

The Grade A listed, 120-year-old Belmont Works site, which has stood derelict since a fire in 2007, will be transformed to house STEAMhouse Phase 2 providing more spaces, equipment and opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators.

It will include a special programme called ‘STEAMincubator’ which will provide new spaces, facilities and collaboration opportunities for start-ups.

Since opening its first phase in Digbeth, STEAMhouse has already helped create more than 50 new West Midlands businesses, created over 25 new research partnerships and invested nearly £70,000 in financial support.

For more information visit: www.steamhouse.org.uk

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