Universities and science minister unveils £73m big data funding

The government is to plough £73m into big data, universities and science minister David Willetts has revealed

The government is to plough £73m into big data. Universities and science minister David Willetts unveiled the funding at a conference on high-performance computing today.

Willetts (pictured) announced £600m funding for eight "great technologies" a year ago. Big data was one of those.

Announcing the £73m, he said: “[Big data] 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.”

Government will divide £72.6m of the funding between four bodies.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) will put £50m into bio-informatics. 

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has £4m to spend on 21 open data projects, one of which is at Lancaster University, which has a project to open up thousands of musical scores which are stored online as images.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) will invest £14m in four new research centres at Essex, Glasgow, UCL and Leeds Universities. The centres will make data from private sector organisations and local government accessible to researchers investigating transport and obesity, as well as other topics.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) will use £4.6m in 24 projects to take advantage of existing environmental data. One project will digitise images of the solar disc, taken as early as the 1900s, to better understand severe space weather risks.

The UK coalition government has made data one of its themes. It has called for the formation of more data scientists, and honoured open data in this year's New Year's Honours list. Jeni Tennison, technical director at the Open Data Institute (ODI), was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire "for services to Technology and Open Data".

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