Mark SayManaging EditorTuesday 19 September 2017

Newcastle to host National Innovation Centre for Data

Government and Newcastle University to provide £30 million funding to support initiative

The Government has got behind plans for a new National Innovation Centre for Data (NICD) to be based on the Science Central site in Newcastle.

Abstract of binary numbersMinister for Digital Matt Hancock announced yesterday that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will provide £15 million to support the effort while Newcastle University will match the amount.

Science Central – which runs a 24-acre development to promote work in the sector in Newcastle – said the centre will link up leading academic talent in universities with industry and the public sector to help them develop the skills to solve real world problems using advances in data science.

It said the move will support the Government’s Industrial Strategy and predicted it could provide a boost to the economy of up to £40 billion.

Speaking at Nesta’s Data Skills for the Future conference yesterday, Hancock 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.”

Developing skills

The centre will run a programme of projects in which academics and industry can share and develop data skills to solve challenges. It should also help to supply the next generation of skilled and educated researchers.

Newcastle has a growing digital cluster that includes public sector facilities – notably the HMRC Digital Delivery Centre – and multi-national companies including Sage, Hewlett Packard and Accenture.

The university has a core group of specialists at its Cloud Innovation Centre, and hosts the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Cloud Computing for Big Data Analytics.

Professor Nick Wright, pro vice chancellor innovation and business, 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.”

 Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0