Big data grabs big chunk of government research cash

Technologies including big data and energy efficient computing are to receive a chunk of £600m in government funding
Written by Sam Shead, Contributor

Big data and energy-efficient computing research will receive millions of pounds from the UK government over the next two years.

David Willetts, minister for universities and science revealed a breakdown of £600m in science funding which was announced by Chancellor George Osborne late last year.

Big data and energy-efficient computing will receive the largest portion of the funding, at £189m.

"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," said Willetts. 

Other technologies set to benefit from the funding, include: space (£25m); robotics and autonomous systems (£35m); synthetic biology (£88m); regenerative medicine (£20m); agri-science campuses (£30m); advanced materials (£73m); and energy (£30m). 

Willetts said that using the £600m to fund research institutes, invest in new facilities, and buy new equipment, will propel the UK to future growth and help with commercialisation. 

Willetts provided more detail on why the government is right to invest in big data and energy-efficient computing in a report to the Policy Exchange, published on Thursday.

"With the right investments, the UK is well placed for the big data revolution. We have 25 of the world’s 500 most powerful computers (out of 107 in Europe compared with 253 in the US, and 68 in China)," reads the report. "But crude computing power is not the be all and end all. We have a comparative advantage in IT because of two distinctive strengths."

Willetts claims that the UK is good at the algorithms used to handle diverse large datasets and has strengths in mathematical and computer sciences, pointing to the involvement of British scientists at CERN, as an example. He also believes that the UK has some of the world's best and most complete datasets in healthcare, demographics, agriculture and environment. 

"We may not have the world's most powerful computer but we have a number of the world’s most energy efficient super computers," writes Willetts. "This means the UK is well placed to solve the challenges posed by clusters like the City of London which are close to reaching their energy and computing capacity. At the smaller scale, this means UK research leads the way in developing longer-life mobile communications such as mobile phones and tablet computers."



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