First look as £9.6m digital tech centre opens to students

Taking a look around the new research and development facility at Adastral Park

Taking a look around the new research and development facility at Adastral Park - Credit: University of Suffolk

A new £9.6m research and engineering facility to help train hundreds of university students has officially opened in Martlesham.

The DigiTech Centre, which celebrated its opening on October 8, is a joint project between the University of Suffolk and BT for use by university staff, students and businesses at the Adastral Park site.

By 2024, the University expects up to 700 undergraduate degree and BT apprentices to have been taught and trained at the centre.

AI and data sciences will be offered to 300 postgraduate students in a move to increase skills in the Eastern region.

Inside the new Adastral Park research facility

The DigiTech Centre officially opened on October 8 - Credit: University of Suffolk

At least seven courses taught at the university will include modules delivered at the centre, including some engineering, computing and cyber security degrees.

Technology and communications are at the heart of the new centre

The centre aims to develop skills and create new jobs in the region - Credit: University of Suffolk

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In addition to its vision to support the region's workforce over the next decade, the centre will aim to support 400 trainees from the region's small medium enterprises (SMEs) through technology and cyber security programme.

As well as providing specialist high-tech laboratories in areas like artificial intelligence, data science and network security, students will also be mixing with around 3,000 BT employees, and 1,000 employees from other companies based at the park.

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Each year, 60,000 people visit the site, with an estimated 1,100 of them leaders from global business or government, who the students may be able to hear from and speak to further.

Big screens at the BT research facility at Adastral Park

The new facility cost £9.6million to build and fit out - Credit: University of Suffolk

Professor Mohammed Dastbaz, deputy vice chancellor at the University of Suffolk, said: "The centre will make Suffolk a recognised destination for industry-focused ICT and digital creative study programmes and an internationally recognised destination for continuous development in digital technologies.  

"This new initiative will play an important role in our region and nationally and we are pleased that students will benefit from the partnership with BT and state-of-the-art facilities."

A seating area at the new research and development centre

Students at the University of Suffolk will get access to state-of-the-art facilities - Credit: University of Suffolk

Lisa Perkins, Adastral Park and research realisation director at BT, said: "This is a major milestone for us as this new centre will help supply a rich pipeline of new technology talent, which will not only be of huge benefit to BT, but also the entire region. 

"There is also a growing demand for people with skills in new technologies. The courses and scholarships offered through the University of Suffolk will mean that we will have access to students graduating with these key skills right on our doorstep. 

"The DigiTech Centre builds on a legacy of innovation and development at Adastral and ensures the East of England continues to be a major technology hub." 

Inside the state-of-the-art facilities at Adastral Park

Specialist high tech laboratories form the heart of the new centre - Credit: University of Suffolk

Funding for the DigiTech Centre came from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, which said the new facility is "stunning" and would "nurture skills, create jobs and increase growth and productivity". 

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