Research and Development 

Innovating, exploring and shaping what’s next…   

Our pioneering position in digital visualisation, immersive technologies. and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions is underpinned by significant investment in our Research and Development (R&D) department.  

Led by Dr. Frank McQuade, this highly innovative team is constantly pushing the boundaries and possibilities, enabling the deeper integration and interactivity of virtual and augmented environments, data analysis, and creative content.  

As immersive technology has matured, this investment in R&D has, and is positioning the company at the forefront of software solution design – particularly exploiting 3D web content and Mixed Reality (MR) capabilities in web solutions. Further pioneering development is scheduled with the expansion of machine learning and AI capabilities in current and next-generation solutions. 

Our research and development expertise is further strengthened within the commercial sector through Co-Founder Keith Cox’s position on the British Standards Institute’s Immersive Technology Committee.  

Innovation Pathway

Our ‘Emerging Technology Innovation Pathway’ was initiated in 2015 when our horizon-scanning activity, exploring advancements in digital visualisation, identified immersive technology solutions as a fit for potential industry use.  

Industry adoption of these new technologies was initially focussed within the gaming and entertainment sphere, however, we determined that by combining immersive technology and commercially accessed hardware – with our established animation, digital environments, and modelling capabilities – we could open new opportunities within the industrial and manufacturing sectors. Few companies had the ability to integrate such high-level capabilities and innovations into a service offering specifically for industry. This further contributed to our integral company ethos, as we seek to support and evolve the democratisation of tech. 

  • Start of the Emerging Technology Innovation Pathway. First investment in Augmented Reality (AR)   
  • Launch of our Immersive studio with the employment of an Immersive Technology Developer focussing on the progression of AR solutions  
  • Creation of our first bespoke AR solution for industry   
  • Winner: Global Award for Best App– Vuforia International Industry Awards 
  • Development of an immersive reality solution using Microsoft HoloLens technology. One of the first European operational uses in industry, this was used by Microsoft in their demonstration activity  
  • First industrial public demonstration of Microsoft HoloLens technology at Farnborough Air Show. 
  • Expansion of our Immersive studio – employing 8 Developers
  • First Virtual Reality (VR) bespoke training solution 
  • Shortlisted for Semta Skills Awards with Jaguar Land Rover our AR/VR training solution
  • Innovation of our 3D modelling pipeline 
  • First Mixed Reality (MR) solution merging AR and VR developed, opening new commercial opportunities   
  • Creation of our first full digital twin production line for VR 
  • IoT solution – the creation of a remotely accessible, real-time digital visualisation and data dashboard application for industry
  • First of two KTP partnerships secured, enabling deeper R&D into machine learning
  • Development of our interactive marketing, training and events platform 
  • Selected as a partner in a UK SPRINT  funded digital twin programme with University of Leicester and Leicester Space Park
  • R&D into 3D web solutions to enable the delivery of immersive experiences via the web that are not device-specific
  • Launch of our CAD to VR conversion solution
CAD to real-time conversion project
Vuforia International Industry Awards Winner for Best App
Vuforia International Industry Awards Winner for Best App
360 auditorium view of Bloc branded virtURL platform
360 auditorium view of our virtURL platform

Our Research Partnerships

Our R&D work is in collaboration with a number of external organisations and academic institutions – enabling us to share best practices, as well as, lead and support further development innovations within both global and UK industry and research settings.   

SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) – University of Leicester  

A project to develop digital twinning technology for space applications and reduce the time and cost of the satellite development lifecycle.

Collaborating with the University of Leicester, our expertise supported the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies and opened up digital twinning to a wider audience.

AMRC (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre) / NAMRC (Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre) – University of Sheffield  

Working with these establishments enriches our horizon-scanning. Through access to costly prototype hardware, we are able to benchmark our own activities and solutions to ensure that we remain at the forefront of emerging technology applications.  

UltraMQL – Innovate UK 

In 2021 we were invited to partner on Innovate UK’s £1.35 million UltraMQL research collaboration, supporting environmentally-friendly machining. Harnessing our digital twinning and advanced IIoT data visualisation expertise to create next-generation virtual representations of a factory, we’re driving advantages in increased productivity, improved quality and reduced risk – within manufacturing processes and production management.  

Project Partners: University of Sheffield, NAMRC, University of Brighton, Kugel Rotary Services, and Quaker Houghton.  

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships – University of Derby  

These academic research partnerships are jointly funded by Bloc and the Universities through Innovate UK/the UKRI Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) – contributing to our development of next-generation VR solutions, that harness machine learning, and data analytics. Following the completion of the first KTP project in early 2021, the project’s KTP Associate joined Bloc as a full-time member of our Research and Development staff. 

Supporting Routes into Industry  

We support students with ‘Years in Industry’ placements and internships. Through the University of Derby, we have taken several placements for those interested in developing skills in software development, animation, and modelling.

In 2021 we welcomed a Sheffield Hallam student within the data analytics field. They are currently helping to develop internal dashboards of live business data to assist processes within our own R&D department.  

We also hire ‘up and coming talent, whether this be graduates or through degree schemes and apprenticeships. We currently have numerous colleagues who study alongside working at Bloc, and the projects they get involved in support their chosen areas of interest.