Writtle University College and ARU have merged. Writtle’s full range of college, degree, postgraduate and short courses will still be delivered on the Writtle campus. See our guide to finding Writtle information on this site.

Work starts on new XR centre at ARU Peterborough

Published: 4 October 2023 at 12:00

XR technology by Igloo Vision

Technology will deliver immersive learning experiences in a safe environment

Work has started on XRP eXtended Reality Peterborough, a new Centre of Excellence on the ground floor of the Peterborough Innovation and Research Centre at the ARU Peterborough campus, which will deliver cutting-edge teaching and training facilities for both ARU Peterborough students and local employers.

Last December it was announced that Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) had been awarded £5.7 million from the Office for Students, England’s independent higher education regulator, to develop three Centres of Excellence, including one at ARU Peterborough. The funding was secured through a competitive bidding process.

XR technology combines elements of the virtual and the real world to create immersive experiences. Rather than just watching, students and employees can be active participants, simulating, for example, workplace environments like hospital wards, factories, labs, or workshops. The state-of-the-art specialist technology allows people to practice and repeat techniques, and perfect skills, in a safe environment.

One of the technology providers for the centre, Igloo Vision, describes their large immersive spaces as “like stepping inside a giant VR headset”. The fit-out of XRP eXtended Reality Peterborough and the other specialist facilities is being delivered by Overbury, a dedicated fit-out company within the Morgan Sindall Group.

The three-storey Innovation and Research Centre has been majority funded with £13.78 million from the Combined Authority Business Board’s Get Building Fund. The building aims to provide space for research and development and innovative enterprise, supporting skills, jobs and economic growth in the local economy.

The building, phase 2 of the campus, supports the creation of an innovation ‘ecosystem’ for the city, linking the academic and research work of ARU Peterborough with further R&D, advanced technology and business. Local companies will be encouraged to use the Centre of Excellence, collaborating with staff and students.

Space within the Innovation and Research Centre is currently being marketed, with advanced discussions taking place for a high performing research unit to be created on the first floor. The third phase of the campus, a second teaching building incorporating a Living Lab public science facility, is planned to complete construction next year.

ARU Peterborough is a partnership between the Combined Authority, Peterborough City Council and Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).

Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Dr Nik Johnson said:

“Creating a Centre of Excellence in some of the most important and pioneering technologies of the 21st Century is another fantastic step forward for ARU Peterborough and for the city as whole. The vision for the university has always been to mix employment-linked higher education with space for innovation and research and development, benefitting wider businesses and the local economy. All credit to the university for their vision and determination in securing the funding for this Centre.”

Professor Ross Renton, Principal of ARU Peterborough, said:

“The use of extended reality will continue to grow across different sectors and settings, and we have been quick to adopt this technology, particularly around health education. Through the establishment of XRP eXtended Reality Peterborough, students at ARU Peterborough will have access to some of the most impressive learning facilities in the country, and the training opportunities it offers will also be of enormous benefit to local organisations and businesses.”

Councillor Lynne Ayres, Cabinet Member for Skills, Further and Higher Education and University for Peterborough City Council, said:

“This is the latest phase in a very exciting journey for the city’s new university which will benefit students of the future and also employers.

“Extended or virtual reality is taking the world by storm and many sectors are looking at how they can use it to develop working practices and improve the services they can offer. Huge credit to ARU Peterborough for being at the forefront of this technology to give students the chance to take part in simulations of working environments as part of their learning. It is incredibly exciting and a further great example of Peterborough leading the way.”

Chair of the Business Board, Al Kingsley, said:

“Investing to keep Cambridgeshire and Peterborough a high performing, globally competitive and innovative economy is vital. Part of that is ensuring that both education and business is helped to stay at the forefront of the learning and research that will help our local economy keep up with changing times. XR already has many applications and vast potential. The Business Board invested in this exceptional new Innovation and Research Centre to bring exactly these kinds of technologies and opportunities for education and local business to the campus and city.”

Photo courtesy of Igloo Vision