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Imperial College and Huawei pledge to develop big data technologies

Brian McKenna

Imperial College, London and China-based telecoms supplier Huawei have announced a commitment to develop a new R&D centre, trained on big data.

The college and Huawei have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to consider the development of a research and innovation centre looking at the next generation of ‘big data’ technologies.

David Gann, Imperial College's vice-president, leading development and innovation said “the endeavour is about long term, fundamental, path-breaking research into big data”. 

He cited three aspects of the term to be tackled by the new centre: new data types, mass scientific data in “areas like genetics, physics, engineering, climate science, and energy. And open data, data one can share with others in the public domain. That has its own conundrums – is it complete, how dynamic – and we need analytic tools for that."

The centre will be based at Imperial West, a new campus on the old BBC site in White City, in London. 

Gann said he can see “a couple of hundred researchers from each side [academics and from Huawei] working side by side on [for example] extraordinarily difficult predictive modelling problems.

“And also on how to show data so that non-scientific people can understand it visually.

“If you unpack the term ‘big data’, there are lots of issues that we don’t have answers to. This is about research at scale to further the opportunities to use data in different markets.

“I’d say that we are doing that anyway at Imperial College, in data science and engineering, and we are already working with IT companies, such as Intel, Cisco, NEC, IBM, BT and Vodafone. So this is not unusual.

“Huawei has seen our capability growing and that the UK and London, especially, is a good place to do work on big data analytics," he said.

“We see them as a major international supplier. They are growing, and what they are doing is exciting”, he added.

The MoU was signed by Sir Keith O’Nions, president and rector of Imperial College London, and William Xu, chief executive of Huawei’s Enterprise Business Group.

O’Nions said: “We are excited to have taken the first step in what we hope will be a long-term collaboration with Huawei, a company which plays a major role in the global ICT industry”.

Xu said: “Imperial is one of the world’s great universities and I am delighted to begin this relationship. We intend for this MoU to lead to a significant partnership in London and to reinforce our commitment to the UK."

David Willetts MP, universities and science minister, said: "Huawei's decision to collaborate with Imperial College London will keep the UK as a global leader in big data. As one of the eight great technologies of the future, big data will allow scientists to research and analyse large information sets to support new innovations across industries such as space, bioscience and healthcare."

Oliver Letwin MP, minister of state at the Cabinet Office, attended this week’s signing ceremony at Imperial.

The memorandum of understanding between Huawei and Imperial College London will be valid for 12 months.


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