It was Bruce's ambition that the laboratory should develop into a Scottish National Oceanographical Institute. A meeting to discuss this possibility was held in May 1914, and the proposal gained significant support from leading Scottish scientists. An organising committee was established, but the matter was shelved on the outbreak of war in August 1914 and was not revived. In 1919 lack of funding, combined with his failing health, forced Bruce to close the laboratory, donating the various specimens, books and other materials to the University of Edinburgh, the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and the Royal Scottish Museum. His illness ended with his death in 1921.