As the multimedia and digital broadcasting technology fields continue to grow in significance, it is important that UK industry and academia build upon existing strengths in these fields to create a world-class centre of expertise and real market opportunities.
The Communications panel of the Technology Foresight exercise highlighted the need for a high-profile centre for long-term, cutting edge academic research into broadcasting and multimedia technology. It was considered critically important for the UK to have a central focus for its research in these vital areas.
A group of companies and six leading universities have therefore come together to create a Virtual Centre of Excellence (VCE) in Digital Broadcasting and Multimedia, which will provide the expertise capable of researching and developing the future operation of multimedia and digital broadcasting technologies.
The Centre will be virtual in that research will be carried out at a number of sites using existing facilities, and with extensive use of electronic communications to which the industrial partners can connect their own research centres. The Centre will provide a mechanism for a rapid creation of a critical mass of research at shared costs, it will create a wide, cross-disciplinary interface with other fields of research in each university, and will offer opportunities for universities to develop longer-term relationships and a more effective access to resources.
The Centre will take forward a core programme of long-term research into the technologies that underpin broadcasting and multimedia and will be largely funded by, and relevant to industry, although it will not be "near to market". The precise programme will be defined by the members, although it is likely to be narrow enough to enable in-depth research to be effective and wide enough to attract broad industrial support. Areas under consideration include content creation, production and post-production, service creation, transmission and user interfaces.
To date, twelve companies and agencies have indicated their wish to join the VCE: BBC, BT, Digi-Media Vision, Mitsubishi, Pace, Panasonic, Philips, Racal, Radiocommunications Agency, S4C, Snell & Wilcox, Sony. Membership remains open to additional companies.
The university partners comprise the Universities of Bradford, Bristol, Essex, Surrey, University College, London and a joint research group of the University of Cambridge, Imperial College, and the National Film & Television School.