Government Invests £73m In UK Big Data

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David Willetts has announced £73m of new funding for 55 projects related to data analytics, including the establishment of four research centres at English universities

The minister for universities and science, David Willetts, has announced £73m of new funding for public sector anlyticis projects, as the government looks to focus on big data as driver of the British economy.

The funding will go to projects that deal with issues ranging from transport to obesity, as well as helping to establish four big data research centres at English universities, Willetts said.

Economic driver

“Making the most of large and complex data is a huge priority for government as it has the potential to transform public and private sector organisations, drive research and development, increase productivity and innovation, and enable market-changing products and services,” he said in a statement. “The new data research centres will help the UK grasp these opportunities and get ahead in the global race.”

government parliament big ben public sector clouds bird © Samot Shutterstock The funding will back a total of 55 projects, with most of it – £72.6m – going to four bodies. The Medical Research Council will receive the largest grant of £50m for bio-informatics research affecting the way biological data is sorted, stored and processed.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) will receive the second-largest funding pot of £14m for the establishment of four new research centres at Essex, Glasgow and Leeds universities and University College London. The centres are to help academic researchers access data from private sector organisations related to transportation, obesity and other issues.

“The sheer volume of data that is now being created presents a significant resource that can be used for the mutual benefit of organisations and academic research,” stated professor Paul Boyle, chief executive of the ESRC. “This in turn can help shape our knowledge of society and help us prepare and evaluate better government policies in the future.”

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)’s £4.6m will go to 24 projects intended to make better use of existing environmental data. Its projects include the digitisation of images of the solar disc taken as early as the beginning of the 20th century, in order to better understand the environmental hazards caused by space weather risks. The funding will also go to digitising paper-based data and funding a cloud-based workspace for researchers.

Job creation

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) will use £4m on 21 open data projects, including a scheme at Lancaster University aimed at making thousands of musical scores accessible as online images.

The government believes big data and other analytics technologies could create 58,000 jobs in Britain by 2017, contributing £216bn to the country’s economy.

Last October the government announced a plan to help drive UK economic growth with a package of £186m investments in eight future technologies, including big data.

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