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Princess Royal visits site of new digitech centre in Suffolk

A £9.6 million digitech facility at BT’s Adastral Park research and engineering campus in Suffolk has been given the blessing of the Princess Royal.

Princess Anne yesterday visited the site of the DigiTech Centre, a collaboration between the University of Suffolk and BT, with funding from New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which will further boost the reputation of the world-leading Innovation Martlesham technology cluster.

It will provide training in cutting-edge digital skills for people looking to pursue careers in the nationally important information and communications technology (ICT) sector, as well as fuelling high tech businesses who increasingly require access to a talented technology workforce.

The DigiTech Centre will be based in remodelled and modernised buildings at Adastral Park, and become home to the ICT and Digital Creative courses offered by the University of Suffolk. In addition, it will offer a range of new innovative research and training programmes in emerging technology areas such as telecoms & future networks, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital creative skills.

Specialist high tech laboratories will form the heart of the new centre, and will be used jointly by University staff, students and businesses at Adastral Park and across the region.

Doug Field, chair of New Anglia LEP, said: “This centre represents a significant boost to the region’s growing ICT ecosystem and will provide a collaborative space to help firms to develop. It will assist productivity in sectors which use ICT as a key enabler, hugely increase the capacity of the University of Suffolk’s School of Science, Technology and Engineering, and double the number of apprenticeships.

“Adastral Park is a world-leading ICT cluster and by investing in this and other projects, the LEP can help to provide the infrastructure, skills and innovation needed to supercharge our economy.”

Professor Tim Whitley, Managing Director of Research at BT, said: “We’re honoured to receive the blessing of Her Royal Highness for this new initiative that will play such an important role in UK IT and technology. This new centre will create a rich pipeline of new technology talent, powering the East of England’s growing reputation as an ICT powerhouse, and fuelling the growth of innovative businesses across the UK. We’re delighted to be working with the University of Suffolk and the New Anglia LEP to embed the Digitech Centre at the heart of the Innovation Martlesham technology cluster and create a rich ecosystem for growth in digital innovation.”

Professor Helen Langton, Vice Chancellor of the University of Suffolk said: “We’re delighted to have been able to share this new initiative with Her Royal Highness. The new “Digital Centre” will allow us the opportunity to form a unique partnership uniting our young, and modern University with a world leading telecommunications company in BT. In a rapidly developing technological age we want the “Digital Centre” to be a state of the art ‘solution centre’ for SMEs and other businesses as well as research and knowledge transfer hub. The centre will have world-class co-working specialist laboratories and will make Suffolk a recognised destination for industry-focused ICT and Digital Creative study programmes and an internationally recognised destination for continuous professional development in digital technologies.”

Adastral Park is BT’s global Research and Development centre and was opened by Her Majesty The Queen in 1975. It has played a pivotal role in telecommunications research, such as the commercialisation of single-mode optical fibre, and the recent development of the world’s first quantum networks.

The park is home to around 3,000 BT employees, and around 1,000 employees from other companies. Each year there are around 60,000 visitors to the site, with around 1,100 of them being leaders from global business or government.

Adastral Park’s schools outreach programme also inspires around 8,000 school children a year about the possibilities afforded by technology. This work forms part of BT’s ‘Skills for Tomorrow’ programme, designed to provide essential digital skills training for 10 million school children, families and businesses across the UK.