Wednesday, September 03, 2008

First Minister opens flagship centre for informatics

Opening of the Forum - Video

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond will open a world-leading centre for informatics research - encompassing computer science, artificial intelligence and cognitive science - at the University of Edinburgh on Wednesday, 3 September.

The £42 million Informatics Forum is dedicated to research from the University's School of Informatics. It brings together some 500 scientists whose interests span virtual reality, robotics, artificial learning, intelligent systems, computational linguistics and bioinformatics.

Built over six floors around a central glass atrium, the 12,000m2 Forum has an open design to encourage interaction and collaboration between researchers. This is intended to promote world-class research and reflect the school's reputation for commercialisation.

Mr Salmond will undertake a tour during which he will be shown examples of key research including a robotic hand prosthesis - being developed in collaboration with local company Touch Bionics - and a miniature humanoid robot. The First Minister will also see notable aspects of the building, such as its floating staircases and outdoor terraces. He is to formally open the Forum by switching on a digital donor board, on which the names of fundraising donors are illuminated in binary code.

The Forum was designed by Bennetts Associates Architects and built by Balfour Beatty, with financial support from Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Government, the Wolfson Foundation, alumni and others.

Mr Salmond will also see sculptures from by Eduardo Paolozzi which are on display in the Forum. The works form part of a bequest which also includes a set of Paolozzi's Turing prints and 100 plaster maquettes.

Representatives of some 30 commercialisation projects associated with the school will be present at the event.

Informatics is the study of how natural and artificial systems store, process and communicate information. The University of Edinburgh's School of Informatics is rated as the top computing science school in the UK and among the top four in the world, with outstanding teaching and research facilities.

First Minister Alex Salmond said: "Scotland has firmly established its place as a world leader in informatics and the development of this impressive new facility reinforces our commitment to research in this area.

"This £42 million project will act as a hub for the academic, commercial and civil development of a range of informatics disciplines ranging from e-science and medicine to business and humanities.

"The Scottish Government is committed to promoting excellence and innovation - building on research and scientific excellence in Scotland's universities to promote sustainable economic growth. I am delighted to officially open this new centre of excellence, it will advance Scotland and the University of Edinburgh's position as a world leader in the new science of informatics and it will also have enormous benefits to both industry and commerce."

Professor Michael Fourman, Head of the School of Informatics, said: "We are delighted to formally open the Informatics Forum. Bringing together our first-rate researchers into this collaborative environment will enable new research, building on the successes of the School to date."

Linda McPherson, Operations Director at Scottish Enterprise said, "Excellence in research is vital for Scotland to compete globally, and the Informatics Forum offers a truly world class facility for this to happen. I am delighted to see the formal opening of the forum and the significant impact it will make to the future of Scotland's economy."

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