Dome but not forgotten...

Ah! what might have been... the recent Dome debacles have led a number of people to express interest in our own - rather imaginative and wholy appropriate - bid for Dome. We didn't make the last ten in the "beauty competition" largely, we understand, because we weren't offering a large block of "get NMEC outof trouble" money up front. Still, it was a great idea, so here is our initial letter, from way back, expressing interest...


We are pleased to be able to confirm Ultralab's expression of interest in the Dome and associated land from Spring 2001.

Our idea is a simple, but we think fitting, use for a building that has already focussed the nation on innovation; put at it simplest, our intention would be to use the Dome to house a great laboratory of research, with constant public access to the work going on inside.

Why? Everywhere that technology impacts on our lives the pace of change is rapid. The question that vexed our parents, and their parents "what can I do?" has been largely replaced by the understanding that in fact almost anything is possible, The question for the next Millennium is "what should I do?". For example in agriculture "Can I produce more food?" is replaced by "are these crops appropriate?", in architecture "how high can I build?" has been replaced by "what is appropriate to be built?", in medicine "who can I cure? by "who should we cure?", and so on. The debate continues in broadcasting, mobility, sport, science, communications, politics... everywhere, including of course, in learning.

Our intention is to assemble a research community of the best teams, pushing forward at the cutting edge of "what can be done?", but crucially communicating their exploration in the most public of ways to help begin or inform a public debate. The juxaposition of daily public attendance with the best research community on the planet will be a unique and fittng use for a Dome that has already been a significant catalyst in public debate. The public would come to the Dome for the delight of the activities on offer, but would leave entranced by the debate that they had been drawn into, in animated discussion all the way home having both learned and contributed.

In addition we believe that the eclectic, polymathic even, community of researchers that would be housed in the Dome will offer a unique crticial mass and cross polination between disciplines that will be of enormous value to the national effort. The sum of their efforts, 'hot housed' together, will, we are quite certain, lead to real gains: unexpected knowledge and rapid progress.

Great research alongside healthy debate exemplifies the European tradition of learning and our project would be founded on Learning in its broadest and most seductive sense. We would expect that as a showcase for techlogical developments across all areas of our social and working lives that a further gain would be the impact on children's aspirations. the Dome will be "a very cool place indeed" with a genuinely valued role for everyone in the UK.

Ultralab, the team assembling this bid, has a strong international reputation for innovation in learning, technology and research. A long and unequalled track record of innovation encompasses Europe's longest running Internet Learning Project (our Nortel sponsored Learning in the New Millennium project), the innovative Schools OnLine project with the DTI and a host of commercia sponsors, (described by the TES as the UK's "bravest and best internet learning project"), the uniquely successful Tesco SchoolNet 2000 project curently enhgaging students in half the UK's schools, the milennium mail project with Oracle which will be giving both an email address and the tools to build and sustain learning communities to every child, teacher and parent in the UK and a mass of other projects that demosntare our technological capability, our commitment to projects that engage and entrance the nation, a clear vision of learning and a philosophy of public service that attracts sponsors and participants alike.

We know that we are held in sufficient esteem to attract the best teams, to carry the support of ministers, and to build a viable model of funding and partnership.

You will undoutedly have many suggestions for the Dome's future but no others, we suggest, that both match the needs of our nation and offer a congruency with public need and desire. It is literally what the Dome was built for and we can't wait to get started.

By the way - the idea is still good... anyone interested?