UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


UCL and Japan strengthen links in big data science

25 November 2014

Big data symposium

The UK and Japan are forging new links in the field of big data. As part of this developing strategic partnership, a delegation of leading Japanese data scientists visited the UK last week. In their schedule of meetings with UK universities, government institutions and companies, they spent a day at UCL's Big Data Institute, to discuss possible areas of future collaboration.

The growing power of computing technologies and the emergence of very large datasets mean that data science is a growing area. A diverse range of UCL researchers have interests in this field, ranging from statisticians and astrophysicists to computer scientists.

Launched in December 2013, UCL's Big Data Institute focuses on addressing the challenges faced by researchers as they work with these complex data sets.

The Japanese delegation included representatives from the University of Tokyo, the National Institute of Informatics and the communications company NTT. UCL was represented by academics including Patrick Wolfe (executive director of the BDI), Anthony Finkelstein (Dean of Engineering) and Ofer Lahav (Vice-Dean of Mathematical & Physical Sciences).

In the meeting, the delegates discussed ways in which UCL and Japan can develop future scientific collaborations. Delegates agreed to identify areas of overlapping research interest and to seek sources of funding to sustain and develop collaborations. UCL staff will visit Japan in the coming months to further entrench the relationship.

UCL has been closely involved with Japan for longer than any other British university. The first Japanese students to study at a Western university, known as the Choshu Five, enrolled at UCL in 1863. Among their number was Ito Hirobumi, who later became his country's first Prime Minister. More recent UCL-Japan links include Junichiro Koizumi (prime minister from 2001 to 2006), who studied at UCL in the 1960s, and UCL's close collaboration with JAXA, the Japanese space agency, on the Hinode solar observation satellite.


UCL's speakers were

  • Patrick Wolfe - Professor of Statistics and Executive Director of the Big Data Institute
  • Sofia Olhede - Professor of Statistics and Scientific Director of the Big Data Institute
  • Anthony Finkelstein - Dean of Engineering
  • Ofer Lahav - Vice-Dean (Research) of Mathematical & Physical Sciences and Professor of Astronomy
  • John Shawe-Taylor - Head of the Department of Computer Science
  • Nikolaos Konstantinidis - Professor of Physics
  • Dr Kit Wong - Reader in Wireless Communications
  • Dr James Cheshire - Lecturer in Quantitative Human Geography

Also attending were Dr Christian Alis and Dr Ricardo Silva.

The Japanese delegation consisted of

  • Prof Ken-ichi Kawarabayashi - Research Director, Global research Centre for Big Data Mathematics, PO JST ERATO project, National Institute of Informatics
  • Prof Hiroshi Nakagawa - The University of Tokyo
  • Dr Naonori Ueda - NTT Communications Research Centre
  • Prof Ichiro Satoh - National Institute of Informatics
  • Prof Takashi Washio - Osaka University

The delegation was led by Seiichi Asano, Senior Science Officer at the British Embassy in Tokyo.

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