David Willetts unveils £73 million of new funding to help the public and academics unlock the potential of big data.

The Universities and Science Minister David Willetts will unveil £73 million of new funding to help the public and academics unlock the potential of big data.

Speaking at a GovNet conference on high performance computing and big data later today (6 February 2014), David Willetts will outline details of the projects that help bring large sets of complex data into usable formats that can inform research and analysis.

It is estimated that the big data market will benefit the UK economy by £216 billion and create 58,000 new jobs before 2017.

The 55 projects receiving investment will drive innovation in a number of diverse areas, including developing a better understanding of human disease, tackling obesity and solving transport problems.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:

Big data is 1 of the 8 great technologies of the future and a priority for government. 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.

This funding will help the UK grasp these opportunities and get ahead in the global race.

The new big data investments are:

  • The Medical Research Council (MRC) will be investing £50 million in bioinformatics, which uses many areas of computer science, statistics, mathematics and engineering to process biological data. Benefits include an improved understanding of human disease
  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has £4 million of funding for 21 new open data projects. They will make large data sets that ordinarily only academics would have access to accessible to the general public. For example, Lancaster University is working on a project that will ‘unlock’ many thousands of musical scores which are stored online as frozen images, opening them up to a new generation of musicians
  • The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) will invest £14 million in 4 new research centres at Essex, Glasgow, UCL and Leeds Universities. The centres will make data from private sector organisations and local government accessible to researchers investigating anything from transport to obesity. At present the data is being collected by these organisations, but is not being used for research purposes. This is phase 2 of the data network. Phase 1 was set up to get information from government departments
  • The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has £4.6 million of funding for 24 projects to help the UK research community take advantage of existing environmental data. One project will digitalise images of the solar disc, taken as early as the 1900s, to help inform our understanding of severe space weather risks

The government is supporting the UK’s data infrastructure, most recently with £189 million of funding for big data in the Autumn Statement 2012.

Notes to editors:

  1. Countries around the world are acting now to position themselves to take advantage of the data opportunity. From the US $200 million big data R&D initiative and Japan’s Growth Strategy which allocates nearly £90 million for big data R&D.

  2. The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set 4 ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’, published at Budget 2011:

  • to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.

Help us improve GOV.UK

Please don't include any personal or financial information, for example your National Insurance or credit card numbers.