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How Newcastle Science Central is helping to alleviate the UK’s skill shortage in big data

Q&A with Professor Paul Watson, Director of the Digital Institute and Professor of Computer Science at Newcastle University: 

Paul Watson high res-cropped.jpgDo you call yourself a Data Scientist or Software Developer?

We’ve all read about the power of big data to transform organisations – increasing productivity and profit - but it’s a sad fact that most companies are struggling to achieve this. It’s not due to a lack of data – many companies are avidly collecting data in the hope that it will somehow prove useful; instead, the most common problem is a lack of expertise in how to extract value from it.  Due to fierce competition, it’s difficult to hire people with the necessary skills and experience - it’s said that if you are employed as a software developer then the best way to find a better, much more highly paid job is to change your title on LinkedIn to 'Data Scientist'.

What IS Newcastle doing to overcome the challenge?

Newcastle University is now putting its efforts into alleviating the UK’s skills shortage in big data through two major initiatives. Firstly, to create the next generation of leaders in this key field, it created the £5 million EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Cloud Computing for Big Data.

Secondly, it is setting up the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Data. This £30 million investment by the government and the university will take the data analytics skills currently locked in Newcastle and other universities and use them to upskill industry through events, training and joint projects. Housed from 2019 in a new, custom-designed, beacon building on Newcastle Science Central, it will work across a range of key industry sectors, including manufacturing and healthcare, delivering programmes tailored to industry needs.

What is Newcastle Science Central and how is it using data?

Newcastle Science Central is a unique city centre development that is directly tackling the skills shortage by combining the efforts and expertise of Newcastle University, Newcastle City Council and industry.

Newcastle University has internationally-recognised strength in data analytics. It's computer scientists and statisticians work closely with industry to push forward the state-of-the-art in methods for extracting value from big data. As a result, the last government review of universities ranked Newcastle’s School of Computing number one in the UK for its impact on the economy and society. The School is now at the heart of Science Central, based in a new, custom-designed £60 million building.

Through its internationally-leading work in medical sciences, Newcastle University has already built up deep skills in healthcare and medicine – a key area which is already being transformed by big data.

As a result of its strength in ageing science, the university has recently been awarded the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing. This £40 million investment by the government and Newcastle University will enable the industry to generate new, innovative products and services aimed at addressing the challenges and opportunities of the ageing population. The two new National Innovation Centres will be co-located on Science Central, attracting companies to the site, and exploiting the opportunities data analytics offers to products and services in the area of ageing.  To further help industry to identify commercial options, the £10 million NIHR Innovation Observatory is using advanced AI methods to assist industry, the NHS and researchers to provide strategic insights in healthcare and medicine by analysing the vast range of data and reports being published continuously.

What is the aim for Newcastle Science Central?

To complement this university-led activity, Newcastle City Council is leading the way in attracting companies onto Science Central, with high quality office buildings such as The Core, which is filled with innovative SMEs, while the Newcastle Laboratory will open on Newcastle Science Central in 2018.  There are also opportunities for larger companies to build their own offices on the site.

Science Central has already brought together an exciting combination of researchers, students and companies. As further developments are completed, its importance to the regional and UK economy will grow, fulfilling Newcastle’s vision of creating a unique melting-pot of science and business innovation at the heart of a vibrant city.

If you are interested in being located on Newcastle Science Central, please get in touch with our Inward Investment Manager, Matt Bratton, for more information:

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Written By

Newcastle is one of only six UK Cities of Science in recognition of world-class strengths. Combining cutting-edge architecture with new public spaces, world-renowned scientific expertise and leading-edge companies, Newcastle Science Central is a hub where investors, businesses, entrepreneurs, students, scientists and citizens can collaborate, innovate and develop solutions for tomorrow’s cities. Occupiers benefit from access to two leading universities, three National Centres of Excellence including the National Innovation Centre for Ageing, the National Innovation Centre for Data and the EPSRC Centre for Energy Systems.   

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