City’s academics receive grants to tackle ‘Big Data’

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A YORKSHIRE university will soon carry out research which could halt the spread of lethal diseases and ensure the buses run on time.

The research could also help to create jobs in a wide range of sectors across Yorkshire.

Academics from Leeds University have received grants to help them analyse the vast amounts of data produced by individuals and public sector organisations, in order to help shape Government policy. Every time we buy goods, or use public services, we leave a digital record behind. This “Big Data” can potentially be used by academics to spot wider trends.

Yesterday, the University of Leeds received two multi-million pound grants that should turn it into a major centre for Big Data analysis.

The grants, announced by Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts at the High Performance Computing and Big Data conference in London, were awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

The University of Leeds has been awarded £5.8m from the MRC and, although the final details are still being negotiated, a further grant of around £5m from the ESRC.

The ESRC grant will be used to establish a new master’s course in Geography and Business, which will help to address a national skill shortages in Big Data analysis. It will also fund a Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC), which will be jointly hosted by the University of Leeds and University College London.

The CDRC will be a national resource that will make data, which is routinely collected by business and local government organisations, accessible for academics so they can carry out research that could shape Government policy.

At Leeds, this data analysis will span a wide range of topics, including research into controlling the spread of epidemics and improving the transport system.

It could also help with other challenges, such as mapping consumer trends and tracing relationships between shopping habits and health.

Professor Mark Birkin of the University of Leeds’ School of Geography, said: “The modern consumer environment is producing vast amounts of data that we are only just starting to get to grips with.”

Patrick Noakes, managing director.

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