UCL News


UCL and Big Data: funding announcement

6 February 2014

UCL is involved in a number of projects under the £73 million 'Big Data' initiative announced today by the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP.

Big Data

Speaking at the Govnet High Performance Computing and Big Data conference in London, Mr Willetts said: "Big data is one of the eight 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 Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Two multimillion pound grants will fund a Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) jointly led by UCL and the University of Leeds. The UCL share of the CDRC will, in turn, be developed in collaboration with the Universities of Liverpool and Oxford.

The work of the CDRC will be in partnership with the retail industry, and will also link to other ESRC Big Data investments in administrative data sources. This will help to create 'joined up' Big Data analysis, as for example in mapping energy efficiency or tracing relationships between shopping habits and health outcomes.

The vision of the Phase 2 ESRC Big Data Research Centres is to create national resources that will reuse data that are routinely collected by business and local government organisations. This will help to improve the evidence base to inform policy development, implementation and evaluation, without compromising the privacy of individuals.

Professor Paul Longley (UCL Geography) said: "We are very pleased to be working with colleagues from Leeds, Liverpool and Oxford on this project, which brings together our complementary research expertise in this area. Today's consumer environment creates vast datasets that could offer valuable insights and information if studied in ways that are efficient, effective and safe to use."

The CDRC will continue work led by Professor Longley and Visiting Industry Professor Keith Dugmore under the ESRC's 'Retail Research and Data' programme.

The Medical Research Council (MRC)

The MRC has made an investment of £32 million, to improve capability, capacity and capital infrastructure in medical bioinformatics. 

Professor Peter Coveney (UCL Chemistry) is leading the project 'Medical Bioinformatics: Data-Driven Discovery for Personalised Medicine', one of the five major strategic awards made under this funding strand. Co-applicants are EMBL - European Bioinformatics Institute, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine' Queen Mary University of London and the Francis Crick Institute (NIMR).

These funding awards aim to strengthen collaborative links, improve tools and infrastructure for researchers and support the safe use of biological and patient data for medical research across all diseases.  The awards will also support career opportunities for computational scientists, technologists and programme leaders, enhancing the UK's skills in this area.

More information: UCL to benefit from £8.9m medical bioinformatics grant

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

UCL is involved in two projects announced under the £4 million, 'Digital Transformations in the Arts and Humanities: Big Data Research' initiative funded by the AHRC with support from the ESRC

  • David Beavan (UCL Information Studies & UCL Digital Humanities) is a co-investigator on the project 'Dynamic dialects: integrating articulatory video to reveal the complexity of speech', led by Professor Jane Stuart-Smith at the University of Glasgow.

This project will create online articulatory resources that show the hidden movements of the tongue and other articulatory organs inside the vocal tract during real speech, using the latest anatomical imaging and digital techniques. These resources will be designed to aid phonetic training, language teaching and learning, and speech therapy, and improve people's understanding of how speech sounds are produced.

  • Dr Nicolas Gold (UCL Computer Science & UCL Digital Humanities) is a co-investigator on the project 'Digital Music Lab - Analysing Big Music Data' led by Dr Tillman Weyde at City University'.

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

NERC will invest in 24 projects that will let the UK research community take advantage of existing environmental data for science and impact.

The two UCL-led projects announced as part of this funding are:

  • Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography) 'Bioclim Global DataPlatform'
  • Professor Jan-Peter Muller (UCL Space & Climate Physics) '500Tb storage system for processing and distribution of Land ECVs as part of EU-FP7 project QA4ECV: Traceable quality assurance system for multi-decadal ECVs'