The Bartlett School of Architecture


UCL digital research facility gets go-ahead

20 July 2015

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The Government has committed to investing £4 million in a new facility at UCL to help policymakers develop ways of evening out the UK’s regional economic divides. This figure is matched by an additional £5.6 million of institutional funding. 

The new UK Regions Digital Research Facility will bring together expertise developed independently across UCL, including next generation data analytics and novel forms of crowd-sourced ‘big data’, to create an open source technology platform that supports regional modelling and analysis to help answer socio-economic questions. 

The facility will be launched later in the year and aims to help cities across the country make better infrastructure investments and strategic decisions in a bid to rebalance the British economy. It will allow public sector policy makers, private firms and inward investors to analyse the potential options available against a background of evidence. 

The announcement of the new centre is timely given the debate surrounding regional imbalance following the Scottish referendum and calls to give regional cities more power over their local economies.

Project lead, Professor Alan Penn, Dean of The Bartlett (UCL Built Environment), said: “The new facility will help inform debate amongst policymakers, lobbyists and communities by exploring how localities, cities and regions conspire to generate or hinder economic growth, innovation and regeneration. We will be giving workshops and training sessions in the various cities around the country to increase the skills and understanding needed to develop and test ‘in-silico’ regional economic policy.”

The new facility will bring together the latest information and analytical methods and will be led by academics from the Built Environment, Engineering and Social & Historical Sciences.  

The centre announcement comes as part of the Government's Summer Budget, which confirmed £23 million of funding through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for six new multidisciplinary research centres over the next five years to drive forward the UK's Digital Economy research, knowledge and skills. 

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “This latest investment demonstrates our commitment to maximising the digital revolution for the UK. These Centres will lead the way in developing innovative digital products which enhance our daily lives - from personalised digital health services to the use of interactive media in education. By harnessing our international research excellence, in partnership with local and regional expertise, these Centres will accelerate Digital technology innovation for business and society's benefit.”