Five years after the closure of the highly-regarded AT&T Labs threw UK technology watchers into despair, a new Cambridge-based research facility has opened to take its place.

Although the Toshiba Cambridge Research Labs (CRL) has been operating in various guises since 1991, this is the first time its research teams will have existed together in a single, purpose-designed building, located on the outskirts of Cambridge.

Previously, they had been spread around the town, an arrangement that made the enterprise look more like a way of keeping a load of brilliant boffins out of harm’s way than a coherent lab.

The facility was opened this week by Lord Rees of Ludlow, president of the Royal Society, to house the Labs’ three research wings, looking into computer vision, speech technology, and, perhaps best-known of all, one working on applying quantum physics to computing, headed by Dr. Andrew Shields.

The headcount at the lab is now around 45 people, including 17 post-graduates from the nearby university, headed by Roberto Cipolla, also Professor of Information Engineering at the Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge.

“Over the past 16 years Toshiba has forged extremely close links with the University of Cambridge, and has supported some of the brightest science students in the country by sponsoring many ground-breaking research projects. As a result, the Cambridge Research Laboratory has become a vital part of Toshiba’s worldwide R&D network and is responsible for a number of significant world-first developments, from Terahertz imaging to quantum cryptography,” said Cipolla at the opening ceremony.

Toshiba gets to tap into the labs expertise as part of its worldwide R&D effort, not to mention the reflected glory when its teams hit gold. In AT&T Labs fashion, the lab has even managed to spin out companies such as TeraView, which left the lab in 2001.