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£1 million gift will help bolster ‘digital innovation hub’ at Bristol’s new enterprise campus

An artist's impression of the exterior of the new 'digital innovation hub' at Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus

Press release issued: 14 April 2022

The University of Bristol is delighted to have received an exceptionally generous philanthropic gift of £1 million from the Garfield Weston Foundation which will bolster the delivery of a brand-new hub for some of its most world-leading research.

The former industrial buildings at 65 Avon Street, St Phillips, will act as an ‘innovation hub’ for the co-creation, testing and refining of the next generation of sociotechnical and creative innovations.

The facilities will be the first to open as part of the University’s planned new Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus this Summer.

They will provide a home for the Bristol Digital Futures Institute (BDFI), an international University Research Institute that is pioneering transformative approaches to digital innovation with support from a £29 million UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) award from Research England. The buildings will also house  MyWorld, a University of Bristol-led programme with £30 million UKRI Strength in Places Funding, which will position the region as an international trailblazer in creative technologies.

The first phase of the project, Retort House, is expected to open in spring 2022 and will house the BDFI’s Reality Emulator, a globally-unique facility where partners and researchers can share multi-sensory and interactive digital experiences, by connecting and harnessing powerful computers, immersive technologies, data, digital testbeds and research laboratories.

It will also include a specially created ‘Neutral Lab’, an open, experimental, and collaborative space where interdisciplinary, cross sector teams can come together around specific BDFI projects, design their own working environment and develop new sociotechnical research methodologies

The larger Coal Shed is scheduled to open in Spring 2023 and will house further BDFI and MyWorld specialist facilities, working and partnerships spaces. It will include a 36-person capacity Instrumented Auditorium for audience evaluation, an experimental production studio with volumetric and motion capture capabilities, as well as 2D and 3D filming with green, blue, white and black cycloramas. 

The studio will offer exceptional acoustics for all types of productions. A virtual production stage can be configured to offer state-of-the-art filming facilities in addition to complimentary pre-and-post-production for extended reality productions. The new facilities will underpin MyWorld’s ambition to drive the future of the West of England’s globally recognised creative technologies sector.

The Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded, charitable grant-making foundation, which supports a wide range of causes across the UK, donating over £90 million annually. It was established in 1958 by the Weston family and is one of the largest and most respected charitable institutions in the UK which has donated well over £1.4 billion in total.  

Philippa Charles, Director – The Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “The Trustees of the Garfield Weston Foundation were very pleased to be able to support this hugely important project to restore the Coal Shed and Retort House on the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus site. 

“Not only were they impressed with the proposed facilities for socio-digital experimentation and learning but they really liked how the project would support an impressive regeneration plan for the area and importantly that the inclusion of the local community had been very carefully considered.”

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President at the University of Bristol, said: “We are incredibly grateful to the Garfield Weston Foundation for their generous grant which will be used to help transform these buildings into a state-of-the-art research hub.

“With the Temple Quarter developments, we have a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to build on our history as one of the world’s great civic universities through the transformation of a key site in the heart of Bristol. It will turn an underdeveloped area into a new destination for collaboration, innovation and opportunity.”

Further information

Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus

The Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus includes a number of planned developments across 14.85 acres in total. The principle academic building on Cattle Market Road will be home to 3,000 students and 800 university staff, business and community partners and the residential accommodation on Temple Island will provide for 953 students.

The public realm will be an open and welcoming space for everyone to enjoy. The new campus will help join the city centre to the east of Bristol with new walking and cycling paths – including a new eastern entrance from Temple Meads station - and deliver an estimated £626 million of employment and financial benefit to the regional economy over the next decade.

The main construction build on the Cattle Market Road site is anticipated to get underway in the January of 2023 and is expected to open during the end of 2025.

Bristol Digital Futures Institute

Bristol Digital Futures Institute is shaping a digital future that works for all by transforming the way we create new digital technology for more inclusive, prosperous, and sustainable societies. The Institute, having secured £100m co-investment is pioneering a different approach to digital tech innovation, bringing together social and technological expertise from across the University of Bristol and collaborators in academia, industry, government, and local communities.

In unique facilities, BDFI will co-create new digital technologies with a greater understanding of how they will impact people and society in future social, political, and economic landscapes. This interdisciplinary approach from the start of the innovation process will help drive sociotechnical change towards more positive digital futures for all. The team aims to tackle the biggest global challenges, from the future of the internet to digital inequality and how to how artificial intelligence can be implemented in fair and explainable ways.

Organisations can get in touch with Bristol Digital Futures now to discuss projects that would benefit from the Reality Emulator or Neutral Lab space, or to discuss partnership with the Institute.


Launched in April 2021, MyWorld is the flagship for the UK’s creative sector and is part of a UK-wide exploration into devolved research and development funding. ​It is one of seven programmes funded by the UKRI Strength in Places Fund and is made up of 13 collaborators from the region’s creative technologies sector and world-leading academic institutions to create a unique cross-sector consortium. ​

MyWorld has a creative mission to showcase the latest advances in digital production and research. With its unique set of creative partners and research collaborators, it will present a set of trailblazing augmented, experimental, and immersive experiences. Bristol and Bath are world renowned for their innovations in technology, original research and creativity in film and television production. Collaborating partner organisations range from Oscar-winning animators to digital entrepreneurs.

Technologies include the latest development in film and television visual and audio production, volumetric capture, mixed reality, motion capture, photogrammetry, virtual production, digital doubles, remote robotics, avatar creation… and much more.

Garfield Weston Foundation

Established in 1958, the Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded charitable grant-making trust which gives away over £90 million a year to charities across the UK. Each year the Foundation gives away its income and donations have continued to grow.

Since it was established, it has donated over £1.4 billion, of which over half has been given away in the past 10 years alone. In the most recent financial year the Foundation gave away more than £98 million to over 2,130 charities across the UK. For more information please visit the website –


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