Opinion Former Article

David Willetts MP to announce £14 million funding boost for Data Research Centres

The Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP, has announced the release of £14 million to fund the second phase of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) investment in Big Data. At a speech at the High Performance Computing and Big Data Conference Mr Willetts outlined what steps are being taken to strengthen the UK’s competitive advantage in Big Data.


This latest funding, part of a pot of £64 million announced in October 2013, will be used to support the establishment of the ESRC Business and Local Government Data Research Centres at Essex, Glasgow, University College London (UCL) and Leeds universities.

The Data Research Centres will make data, routinely collected by business and local government organisations, accessible for academics in order to undertake outstanding research in the social sciences in ways that safeguard individuals’ identities. That research will provide a sound evidence-base to inform policy development, implementation and evaluation. This requires not just the development of a safe, secure and efficient system for linking, managing and analysing such data, founded on secure technologies, but also trust between data owners, researchers and other interested parties including the public.

These new centres, together with the Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN), will make a significant contribution to ensuring the future sustainability of UK research competitiveness; supporting the UK in maximising its innovation potential and driving economic growth. 

Professor Paul Boyle, Chief Executive of the ESRC said;

“We are delighted that the next phase of funding for this Big Data initiative has been announced, which builds on the success of the first phase. The sheer volume of data that is now being created presents a significant resource that can be used for the mutual benefit of organisations and academic research. This in turn can help shape our knowledge of society and help us prepare and evaluate better government policies in the future.”

The Minister  David Willets MP added:

“Making the most of large and complex data is a huge priority for government as it 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. The new data research centres will help the UK grasp these opportunities and get ahead in the global race.”

The Centres at Glasgow and Essex were established in January 2014. The Centres at UCL and Leeds will begin work in February 2014.
For further information contact:

ESRC Press Office:

Claire Penketh
Email: claire.penketh@esrc.ac.uk
Telephone 01793 413122
Susie Watts
Email: Susie.watts@esrc.ac.uk
Telephone 01793 413119


Notes to Editors
1.    The centres that are being established are: the Urban Big Data Research Centre at University of Glasgow, the Consumer Data Research Centre at University of Leeds and UCL, and the Data Research Centre for Smart Analytics at University of Essex.  The ESRC-funded UK Data Service will have a key role in supporting and co-ordinating these centres.

2.    The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total budget for 2013/14 is £212 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.

3.    In addition to the £14 million announced, additional funds totaling c. £14 million are being provided to these centres from other ESRC capital sources. Collectively, they will benefit from a grants package totaling approximately £28 million.

4.  The ESRC's Big Data Network has been divided into three phases. In Phase 1 of the Big Data Network the ESRC invested in the development of the Administrative Data Research Network. Phase 2 is focusing primarily on business data and local government data. Phase 3 will focus on social media data and third sector data.

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