A new technology hub at a Lancashire university is attracting businesses with its 4k CAVE.

The computer augmented virtual environment is the centrepiece of the new centre at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk and allows users to step into a virtual space that can be used in project design and medical research, among other areas.

It contains four screens and uses real data to replicate reality, allowing users to experience real life scenarios in 4k resolution such as emergency situations or complex surgery and lab reactions.

The £13 million technology hub will take the uni’s 70-student intake to 235 in technology-based subjects and include a “tech sandpit” for final year students, graduates and start-ups.

This gives them access to a lab environment, a hatchery for fledgling businesses, a bio-technology lab and knowledge exchange centre.

“It’s an exciting thing and what will be the first 4k CAVE in a British university - it’s cutting edge stuff,” says George Talbot, pro-vice chancellor and dean of art and sciences.

“Already on the strength of that announcement we’ve had approaches from a number of businesses in the region.”

Edge Hill UniversityEdge Hill University
George Talbot

Talbot was speaking before the hub opened last week.

The university has also brought in more experts in areas such as big data, cyber security and virtual reality due to greater demand from students and businesses in the area.

Its location itself means it brings in interest from Lancashire, Liverpool and Manchester – and Talbot says it is keen to respond to skills needs.

To this end, it is growing its biology department to service biotechnology needs locally.

“There will be jobs and a need for greater skills and we’re seeking to service that and work with partners,” he adds.

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The CAVE is just one part of the low-carbon building which has been built thanks to £3m of support from the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Housing state-of-the-art biotechnology laboratories, big data servers for research and a Harvard style lecture theatre, the building will also house a programmable child-sized robot and giant 3D interactive teaching screens.

The hub will open its doors to schools in areas where pupils are unlikely to enter higher education and/or study science, technology, engineering or math subjects.

Mark Allanson, pro vice-chancellor at Edge Hill University, said: “Having this dedicated facility for technology shows the University’s commitment to technological innovation, computing and bioscience and reflects our success in producing employable, highly skilled graduates who contribute to the regional economy and beyond.

“These cutting-edge facilities and systems are an asset for the whole community and will help strengthen our partnerships within business and increase our research capabilities.

“Our collaboration with Lancashire Enterprise Partnership will help us to focus on regional skills needs."