IBM and the UK government have teamed up to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in big data and cognitive computing research.

Big Blue will provide the bulk of the money, pledging £200 million, while the government will contribute £113 million.

Hartree Centre

The government says the new money will be used for big data research in the UK, and will support the UK’s Hartree Centre at Daresbury (Cheshire).

As part of the deal, IBM will provide access to data-centric and cognitive computing technologies, including its ‘Watson’ cognitive computing platform. At least 24 IBM researchers will be based at the Hartree Centre to work side-by-side with existing researchers.

The research will seek to commericalise any of the intellectual property assets produced in partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which runs the Hartree Centre.

“We live in an information economy – from the smart devices we use every day to the super-computers that helped find the Higgs Boson, the power of advanced computing means we now have access to vast amounts of data,” said Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson. “This partnership with IBM, which builds on our £113 million investment to expand the Hartree Centre, will help businesses make the best use of Big Data to develop better products and services that will boost productivity, drive growth and create jobs.”

“We’re at the dawn of a new era of cognitive computing, during which advanced data-centric computing models and open innovation approaches will allow technology to greatly augment decision-making capabilities for business and government,” said David Stokes, chief executive for IBM in the UK and Ireland.

“The expansion of our collaboration with STFC builds upon Hartree’s successful engagement with industry and its record in commercialising technological developments, and provides a world-class environment using Watson and OpenPOWER technologies to extend the boundaries of Big Data and cognitive computing,” he added.

“The Government’s five-year investment in the Hartree Centre will deliver a step-change in capability in this area, and will bring in significant knowledge and expertise from IBM Research that will help ensure our science and industry remains at the very forefront of research and development,” said Professor John Womersley, chief executive of STFC.

Big Data Funding

The government has made previous investments in big data. In October 2013 the Coalition government announced a £186 million investment package in eight future technologies, including big data.

And then in 2014, it invested a further £73 million of funding for public sector analytics projects, as part of its focus on big data as a driver of the British economy.

IBM meanwhile tends to invest very heavily in research and development. In March it pledged $3 billion (£2bn) over the next four years to build up a new IoT unit able to deal with the increasingly huge amounts of data being produced every day.

Last year IBM made a $3 billion (£1.7bn) investment in chip research over the next five years, aimed at discovering semiconductor breakthroughs and cramming ever more components on a chip. It has also previously invested $1 billion (£629 million) in Linux development and open source software.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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