A new £100 million institute, based in the centre of Bristol, is set to transform the way we create, utilise and evaluate new digital technologies to benefit our society now and in the future.

In a unique collaboration, University of Bristol engineers will work with social scientists and with tech giants, corporations, local government and community partners to answer these big questions and create transformational technologies for the future.

The Bristol Digital Futures Institute (BDFI) will be based at the University’s new Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus in the heart of the City of Bristol’s new Enterprise Zone.

This international leading research facility is being funded by a £29 million grant from the Research England UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (RPIF), which has received more than double that in £71 million of match funding (£16 million philanthropy and £55 million from 27 partners including organisations such as BT, Dyson, BBC, Airbus and Aardman).  

  • BDFI will involve 200 people in its research and innovation contributing over £180 million to the economy over ten years.
  • Funding will create a 6,000sqm collaborative co-creation space on the new campus. Facilities will include a state-of-the-art interactive auditorium and the world’s first reality emulator enabling the study of future digital systems at scale.
  • These cutting-edge labs will allow researchers to study a range of scenarios, from emerging challenges in future cities; protecting ourselves against cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure, and exploring how digital technologies are experienced by different social groups. This knowledge will be shared to help create a better digital world.
  • With the UK digital sector projected to be worth £200 billion by 2025, the Institute will be ideally placed to investigate the implications of living in a data-driven society.
  • The Bristol-Bath region alone is a globally significant digital technology cluster in the UK, with more than 60,000 digital workers across the aerospace, digital technologies, digital creative and Internet application industries.

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol, said: “So many of the research solutions to contemporary global challenges are now discovered through creative collisions at the interface of traditional academic disciplines.

“The new Bristol Digital Futures Institute will apply this multidisciplinary paradigm to exploration of our rapidly evolving digital world. We are creating a unique research ecosystem where world-class engineers, computer scientists, social and behavioural scientists, psychologists and legal scholars can work shoulder to shoulder with our partners from industry, social enterprises and civic organisations exploring the opportunities and challenges posed by new digital technologies.”

Among the partners who pledged their support and financial support include: Aardman, Ashley Community Housing, Airbus, Arm Ltd, Babassa, BBC,  Bristol Media Group, Black South West Network (BSWN), BT, Business West, Digital Catapult, Dyson, Evolyst Ltd, Frazer-Nash Consultancy, Gregg Latchams Solicitors, Hargreaves Landsdown, Knowle West Media Centre, National Physical Laboratory (NPL), Quin, System C Healthcare Ltd, Thales UK Ltd, Three, TM Forum, Toshiba, Ultrahaptics Ltd, Watershed, West of England Combined Authority (WECA).

David Sproxton, Co-founder of Aardman, said: “Engaging audiences emotionally and authentically with screen-based entertainment is a little understood art. The Bristol Digital Futures Institute will build new knowledge using state-of-the-art facilities to create truly immersive and engaging experiences with the aim of supporting the creation of the next world class character franchise like Wallace & Gromit or Shaun the Sheep here in Bristol.”  

The Institute will aim to generate 30 new collaborative projects per year. It will be jointly led by Professor Susan Halford, a social scientist and professor of sociology, and Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, an engineer and professor of high-performance networks.

BDFI is being funded through Round 6 of Research England’s flagship capital investment scheme the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF).