Home of the semantic web goes up in flames

A major fire has partially destroyed the computer labs at Southampton University.

A major fire has partially destroyed the computer labs at Southampton University.

The Mountbatten Building, which houses research labs and offices for the Optoelectronics Research Centre and the School of Electronics and Computer Science, was partially destroyed, along with a microfabrication facility operated by university spin-off company Innos.

No one was injured in the fire, but the university estimated that replacing both the building and the specialist equipment within it would cost about £50m.

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, was last year appointed a professor at Southampton University, where he is working on the next version of his internet technology, the semantic web.

Wendy Hall, former president of the British Computer Society, is also a professor at Southampton University.

University vice-chancellor Bill Wakeham pledged to rebuild the school. "This is a huge blow to the individuals who have lost work in this fire, and to the university and the country. This research facility and the researchers who use it are recognised as among the best in the world. We are committed to rebuilding, and out of these tragic events will emerge something bigger and better.

"Although we have lost a facility we have still got the staff who are the powerhouse behind the research. We have had many offers of support and facilities from other institutions and companies so that research can continue."

The Mountbatten Building opened in 1991.

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