A Pounds 320,000 expansion of virtual reality facilities at the University of Salford will bring increased opportunities for postgraduate study and industrial collaboration.
The money, awarded earlier this year by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, will be used to set up a National Centre for Virtual Environments. Researchers from other universities will be able to use the facilities. Discussions have begun with several institutions, including Nottingham, Plymouth and University College London.
Bob Stone, who established the National Advanced Robotics Research Centre at Salford in the late 1980s, will head the centre.
Professor Stone works for the campus spin-off company Intelligent Systems Solutions and is seconded to the university for 50 per cent of his time. The centre will be located in a two-storey building on the campus, currently occupied by InSys employees and a few students and research assistants.
The company's robotics division is moving out of the building to make more space for virtual reality work.
When the redevelopment is complete, there will be lecture and seminar rooms on the ground floor, and a laboratory for experiments and demonstrations upstairs.
Peter Brandon, pro vice chancellor for research, said: "We intend to continue Salford University's pioneering links with industry by offering a masters degree in VR, to provide the future skills base so badly needed by the industrial VR community."
According to Professor Stone the masters programme is likely to begin with an intake of about 20 students in 1996. The subject will be called "interactive visualisation" rather than the over-hyped "virtual reality".