New digital lab will be a catalyst for creative industries in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 14:06 15 July 2015 | UPDATED: 14:06 15 July 2015

Cavendish House in Norwich will be home to a new state of the art digital user research lab

Cavendish House in Norwich will be home to a new state of the art digital user research lab


Creative industry start ups looking to establish their businesses are being targeted as part of a new venture in Norwich.

Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) is to open a digital user research lab in October, in a new purpose-built ideas factory digital creative incubation centre at Cavendish House in St Andrews Street.

The £3.1m project will be funded by a £1.6m grant from the HEFCE Catalyst Fund, along with £200,000 of support from New Anglia LEP, and business partners in the Digital Creative business community.

The digital user research lab project is worth £542,000 in total, with £155,000 funding from HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council of England).

A number of companies both nationally and locally are also sponsoring the project, including Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (CEE), Foolproof, Special Design Studio, and FXHome,

The idea is to incorporate innovative User Experience (UX) design thinking into NUA courses, as well as offering local digital creative businesses the chance to incorporate UX cost-effectively into their own design and development processes. The lab is intended to be a place where users of all sorts of digital products will be invited to trial prototypes, using mobile phones, tablets, consoles and computers.

Their experience will be tracked by specialist Morae software, and their experience watched live by clients and designers in the incubation centre board room. This enables designers and creative developers to optimise their products, putting the user at the centre of product design.

For regional businesses, supporters said the lab will meet a need for an affordably priced, gold standard facility, located in the centre of the city. The intention is that this will enable digital creative entrepreneurs to access a national and international customer base not currently open to them. Rob Johnson, from Sony CEE, said: “It’s invaluable for creative students, particularly games designers, to have experience of UX testing while they are still at university, even if it only extends to understanding what it is, and how the professional world uses this type of methodology every day. It will be part of their working lives as soon as they graduate”

Tom Wood of Foolproof, said: “The workhorse that moves commercial digital products from concept to market is the research lab. But smaller digital creative businesses can’t get access to high-spec testing facilities in Norwich, meaning that they either have to hire facilities in London, or they don’t conduct testing.

“A lab which can be hired locally means that the area can keep pace competitively with other parts of the UK and global competitors.”

Professor John Last, NUA’s vice chancellor said the project would serve as an “essential catalyst” for the digital creative sector.

“NUA is an importer of creative talent into the region, and we play a pivotal role in supporting the businesses in our sector,” he said.

“The digital user research lab will be a focus for digital creative business, enabling us to inspire designers of tomorrow and create economic mobility for regional business to access an international customer base.”

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