The need for Research and Development at the British Broadcasting Company was identified almost as soon as public service broadcasting was established in 1922. By 1927 the two sections had grown to such a size that they had to move from their cramped quarters at Savoy Hill to Avenue House in Clapham, South London.
Led by H.L. Kirke, the sections eventually became known as the Research Department. In 1947, after a hiatus brought about to the war, a separate Designs Department was set up to re-equip the radio service and re-open the television service, and the Research Department moved into Kingswood Warren, a nineteenth-century Gothic mansion in south-east England, soon after.
Over the next 50 years, there were very few developments in broadcast engineering in which the two Departments did not play a significant part. From the conversion of the original 405-line television service to 625 lines, stereo audio, the launch of colour television, film and video tape recording, transatlantic cable and satellite and the BBC Microcomputer, to consumer technologies such as teletext, DAB digital radio, NICAM and Freeview, Freesat and YouView, BBC R&D has had a hand in them all.
And with the emergence of the internet and interactive media, it continues to innovate, publishing standards for hybrid broadcast and IP systems, and prototyping new ways of viewing and interacting with the BBC’s programmes made possible by technology.
Having merged into one department in 1993, Research & Development is now part of the BBC's Digital division and led by Controller of R&D, Andy Conroy. Based in Research Labs in Salford and in London, our teams continue to pioneer in research, design and engineering for broadcast and IP, collaborating with and setting the standard for research departments everywhere.