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UK Government Backs Research ‘Hubs’ For Digital Life

Research centre investments can change the way we live, says science minister

Lord Drayson, Minister for Science and Innovation will today announce three new centres that will develop digital technology to transform the lives of UK citizens.

Building on the government’s Digital Britain universal broadband access pledge, the new research ‘hubs’ will be based in Nottingham, Newcastle and Aberdeen universities and are the biggest investment ever made by the Research Councils in creating a Digital Britain.

The hubs will focus on the elderly and disabled, as well as people in rural communities, developing technology such as digital jewellery to keep in sensory touch with loved ones. If that sounds “fluffy”, the centres will also develop new ways to utilise digital technologies to help business and stimulate economic growth.

Lord Drayson said the new hubs would focus on designing digital technology that includes people from all walks of life. “This will ensure that everyone is part of our digital future,” he said.

“The hubs will develop new technologies utilising wireless networks and GPS, which will deliver hi-tech digital solutions across many sectors. They will create jobs, improve public services such as health and transport, reduce waste and bring digital revolution into people’s lives for the first time.”

With applications in palliative healthcare for the elderly and dementia sufferers at the top of the research list, those of interest to enterprises are likely to be those that reduce the burden of travel and its environmental impact.

For example, researchers at the University of Nottingham will explore the combination of social networking systems such as Facebook and GPS technology to develop car-sharing networks by connecting individuals and coordinating offers and requests in real time on mobile devices.

Integrated transport information systems were also touted, providing up-to-minute travel planning advice across all modes of transport.

The Aberdeen digital research hub will focus on rural issues, including access to broadband, while the Nottingham hub will promote creative industries such as internet and mobile phone gaming, as well as online smart marketing tools for retailers, and the integrated transport tools. And Newcastle will work with older people to design simple, intuitive interfaces tailored to their needs.