Why we shouldn’t be surprised if the next Google or Facebook comes straight out of Newcastle
Big data is a revolution and it’s happening right now.
Of all the technological advancements and innovations we’re increasingly exposed to, this often misunderstood topic may just be the most important of the lot. Why, you ask? Because in the not so distant future, big data will transform how we manage our enterprises and the city of Newcastle upon Tyne will act as the UK’s driving force in doing so.
Earlier today the government’s Minister for Digital, Matt Hancock, confirmed that the UK’s new £30m National Innovation Centre for Data (NICD) will be granted the funding it needs to succeed and strive on a global scale.
Based at Newcastle Science Central, the centre aims to link up leading academic talent in universities with industry and the public sector to help develop skills needed to solve real world problems using advances in data science.
Ultimately, the NCID’s value will lie in creating a pipeline of talent to power the ground-breaking businesses of tomorrow. Therefore what Newcastle is on the cusp of having is a hub with the potential to act as a production line for talent and innovation - in arguably the most important area of technology right now.
Read more: Understanding big data and data science
Data science provides real benefits to everyday life. For example, it powers internet searches and apps, can predict and help treat health issues, and is behind new technology for maintaining cars and other machinery, allowing people to benefit from intelligent household appliances.
According to independent research, companies using data science are 10 per cent more productive on average than those that do not, and companies that exploit data can reduce costs, innovate and develop new goods and services faster than those that do not and make faster and better decisions.
Studies by Nesta, the innovation foundation, show UK firms who use data most effectively are 40 per cent more likely to launch new products and services ahead of their competitors.
The centre will have a programme of projects where academics and industry can share and develop their data skills to solve challenges - for example, industry wanting advice on how to develop the data analysis skills to predict when a machine may stop working to prevent costly breakdowns.
The £15m funding from Government, which is managed through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will be matched by £15m from Newcastle University and will also help supply the next generation of skilled and educated researchers.
Speaking at Nesta’s Data Skills For The Future conference today, Minister for Digital Matt Hancock (pictured above) said: “We’re determined to unlock the huge potential of big data which could add billions of pounds to our economy - from powering price comparison sites to improving the flow of transport around cities.
“Our new National Innovation Centre for Data will help us achieve this aim by making sure the skills and talent in our universities is being transferred into industry and the public sector.
“It will not only spark innovation among the next generation of tech experts but also help businesses across the whole country capitalise on the immense value of data.”
Newcastle’s pivotal role
Newcastle has one of the largest and fastest growing digital clusters in the country with multi-national companies including Sage - the UK’s largest software company - Hewlett Packard and Accenture, as well as significant public sector IT facilities, including the HMRC Digital Delivery Centre, and major commercial data centres.
Moreover, Newcastle University has a core group of specialists who have expertise in working closely with a wide range of industrial organisations through its Cloud Innovation Centre, and it also hosts the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Cloud Computing for Big Data Analytics at Newcastle University.
Professor Nick Wright, PVC Innovation and Business, Newcastle University, said: “NICD will help to address the data skills gap by taking a practical hands-on approach.
“We will work with organisations on their domain related problems, transferring the skills into the organisation that will enable them to innovate through data.”
With the next big thing in technology likely to come from big data - rather than in search or social media a la Google and Facebook - jibes of ‘miners and flatcaps’, if not redundant already, will have no bearing on a city soon at the forefront of global innovation.