Big data and green IT receive large share of £600m government fund

Technologies around big data and energy-efficient computing have attracted millions of pounds in funding

Technologies around big data and energy-efficient computing have attracted millions of pounds in government funding.

David Willetts, minister for universities and science, outlined the “eight great technologies” that will receive a share of the £600m investment for science announced in the Autumn Statement. 

They included big data, space, robotics and autonomous systems, synthetic biology, regenerative medicine, agri-science, advanced materials and energy.

These technologies will propel the UK to future growth and help it maintain its competitive advantage, said Willetts.

Big data and energy-efficient computing resources attracted the largest share of the investment (£189m). 

Another £30m was set aside for research and development facilities focusing on new grid scale storage technologies that will help the UK reduce its carbon footprint and save money.

Willetts announced another £45m for new facilities and equipment for advanced materials research in areas such as low-energy electronics and telecommunications resources, advanced composites and high-performance alloys.

“The power of computing and data handling is now becoming so great that classic distinctions between micro and macro effects are breaking down,” he said in his speech.

“Businesses will invest more as they see us invest more in computational infrastructure to capture and analyse data flows released by the open data revolution,” he added.

The minister echoed elements of a speech by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne on 9 November 2012 at the Royal Society

Osborne, too, sang the praises of big data. “The next generation of scientific discovery will be data-driven discovery, as previously unrecognised patterns are discovered by analysing massive data sets,” he said. 

The UK is well placed for the big data revolution, he said, highlighting the role of British scientists in the experiments at CERN

“We have some of the world’s best and most complete data sets in healthcare, demographics, environmental change and food,” he added.

As for investment in energy-efficient computing, Willetts said that investment in efficient-energy storage technologies will yield savings on UK energy spend, environmental benefits and economic growth.

“We are also considering a strategic opportunity to partner with the US Department of Energy in the development of small modular reactor technology,” he said.

The remainder of the £600m investment will go to universities, space research, innovation centres, science parks and enterprise sites, as well as upgrades to research equipment and laboratories.

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