A new £20 million-plus big data research centre is to open at the University of Reading next year.
The centre will "unlock" huge, complex and growing environmental datasets and the latest computational modelling, satellite and earth observation research, aiming to turn them into "commercially viable ideas".
The project has secured a £5.6 million Catalyst Fund grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to "pump-prime" the project over the next five years. An additional £7.15 million is being contributed from a consortium of 13 partners, led by the university – which aims to leverage at least £20 million of new investment by 2020.
The University of Reading is a leading centre for environmental science, with the new centre's first projects scheduled to be formally launched in "early 2015", said the university. A chief executive and new team will be recruited for the centre over the coming months.
In additional to performing research and development, the centre will train a new generation of skilled environmental analysts to address a serious skills shortage within the sector. It will also support new business development through projects that will demonstrate how environmental data can generate growth and jobs, the university said. And it will actively promote the potential of analytics to business leaders, entrepreneurs and policymakers.
University of Reading vice-chancellor Sir David Bell said, “We’ve only just scraped the surface when it comes to realising the potential of big data. There are staggering amounts of data being produced every day. Data underpins our economy, driving scientific discovery and growth – that’s why the UK needs the research base to handle massive data volumes and be able to turn them into viable business concepts."
He said, “We know that industry is often frustrated that they do not have access to the latest science, and all too often academics find they do not know how to commercialise the cutting-edge research they do.
"This new centre will address this innovation gap, unlocking the potential of the UK’s world-leading environmental science research base to drive innovation, economic growth and jobs."
Brunel University in London is to host a big data recruitment fair with major UK employers later this month.