How IT is supporting the next generation of artists and designers at Birmingham City University

Birmingham City University’s new campus buildings are part of a £180m investment in new facilities with IT at its core

Birmingham City University’s (BCU's) first of two new campus buildings will open next September; part of a combined £180m investment in new facilities. 

The campus will be the home of the renowned Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD) – which dates back to 1843 – and the ICT team is playing an important role in its future success.

The ICT team at BCU have been busy creating a technology infrastructure and platforms that will support the needs of its users now and in the future. 

Right through the technology stack, from the high-speed copper and fibre-wiring schemes and resilient virtualised datacentre facilities to the building and business systems integration, we are achieving through our Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) based on Microsoft BizTalk.

The BCU ICT team are also working with Cortech Developments to further integrate its Datalog 5 security software through BizTalk with other building and business systems. 

As we add to the systems and services we have already integrated with BizTalk, we extend the orchestrated service-oriented architecture of BCU. For our users, this means being able to better deliver more tailored services relevant to them. 

It also means reduced operating costs to the university by streamlining systems delivery and support and sharing cleaner data and information between systems.

As we continue to join up our university systems and get them talking with more social media and partner systems, a range of possibilities opens up. Not only do we put more tools and information in the hands of our users and partners to blend with their systems, we are also able to collect data to analyse and help predict what services our individual users want, what’s available at that time and how best to deliver it. 

A fuller more dynamic picture of the data will allow us to provide more rounded services on the whole.

Along with first-class fashion and design facilities the new BIAD campus will provide our users with the latest in media technology including four TV studios and seven radio studios. Birmingham has a proud and continuing heritage of creative productivity and was once referred to as the “workshop of the world”. 

BCU BIAD’s new facilities will help to extend that tradition by acting as a launching platform for future generations of creators and artists.

It’s important to recognise and celebrate the role of the artist in society and the effect design has on all of our lives. 

One such famous designer is Jonathan Ive of Apple fame, who was the man behind the designs for many of Apple’s recent products, and attended a British former polytechnic studying industrial design. 

Steve Jobs had the vision and brilliance to put design at the centre of Apple’s products and Jonathan Ive’s designs have been instrumental in making Apple the most valuable company in the world. Design and designers are important to and for all of our futures.

It is people with vision and creativity, like Ive, that make our world a more pleasurable and comfortable place to live in. 

On his journey to create the Apple products he spent time studying sweet manufacturing to achieve the translucent, seductive colours now featured in the Apple range. He also studied with a Japanese master swordsmith to help achieve the technical and visual qualities inherent in Apple’s iconic designs. 

BCU ICT hasn’t gone to quite those extremes, but we have and continue to work with industry and consultants to achieve the best possible ICT estate for our new BIAD campus; and to keep it evolving.

BIAD’s new facilities will enable all of the creative disciplines it serves to interact with one another. It’s likely that such a melting pot of talent and creativity will help to nurture designers and artists who will be designing some of the things we will enjoy in the future. Maybe there will be a few who go on to dramatically change things and be extraordinarily inventive in the spirit of Jonathan Ive.

Steven Hipwell (pictured) is principal project manager at Birmingham City University.

Read more on Integration software and middleware