UK lab takes star role

December 3, 1999

An industry-academia collaboration that aims to become the Hollywood of "anytime, anywhere" learning was launched on Monday in London.

The Learning Laboratory involves 16 companies and the University of Wolverhampton. It will be a first point of contact for anyone interested in the design, development and delivery of technology-enhanced learning.

Michael Wills, parliamentary undersecretary at the Department for Education and Employment, joined Lord Dearing, chairman of the University for Industry, and leading figures from the IT industry for the launch.

Mr Wills said that the Learning Laboratory had potential to make a significant contribution to the revolution in education, skills and training.

"There is a democratisation of knowledge in every area of life but also the risk of opening a digital divide, a great gulf between those who can seize these opportunities and everybody else," he said.

"Our job is to ensure that everyone has these opportunities. We cannot have a successful knowledge-driven economy without a knowledge-driven society."

Steve Molyneux of the University of Wolverhampton joined the launch by video link from the Telford campus, where the laboratory will be based. He said that the Learning Laboratory would educate the market about what was available in, and the benefits of, technology-enhanced learning.

The university's role was praised by Lord Dearing, who said that the project was "a prime example of universities taking the lead in translating ideas into product. It shows the entrepreneurial side of the university sector is very much a part of its character and one it will need to survive".

Andrew Boswell, chief technology officer at ICL and a founder member, said that all the member organisations would go to the lab to work with experts and create new learning environments. "We believe in the goal of making the UK the world's leading exporter of education and learning materials. We can be the Hollywood of learning. The lab will be a power station on the National Grid for Learning to help make this happen," he said.

Jeff Raikes, vice-president of worldwide sales and marketing at founding partner Microsoft, said that the lab would enable solutions for learning anytime, anywhere and on any device connected to the internet.

The lab would be a key facility in the knowledge society, helping to bring about change where ideas were shared by all workers, closing the skills gap that had led to 100,000 vacancies for IT specialists in the UK.

The founding organisations, which include the UfI and telecommunications and training firms, have given Pounds 300,000 for the launch and to pay the staff of four. Surpluses will be ploughed back into research.

The Learning Laboratory website: www.broadnet.co.uk/llab

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