�200m government deal with IBM to boost big data

Funding worth £313m will be injected into big data research following a government partnership with tech giant IBM.

Jo Johnson, Universities and Science Minister, is expected to announce the partnership today after the coalition Government already committed £113m to expand the Hartree Centre at Daresbury by 2020 in the Autumn Statement.

Tech giant IBM will further support the project with a package of technology and onsite expertise worth up to £200m.

Jo Johnson said: “We live in an information economy – from the smart devices we use every day to the super-computers that helped find the Higgs Boson, the power of advanced computing means we now have access to vast amounts of data.”

IBM will give access to its data-centric and cognitive computing technology, including the ‘Watson’ computing platform, and at least 24 IBM researchers will be based at the Hartree Centre to work side-by-side with existing data scientists.  

“This partnership with IBM, which builds on our £113 million investment to expand the Hartree Centre, will help businesses make the best use of Big Data to develop better products and services that will boost productivity, drive growth and create jobs,” said Johnston.

Advanced data-centric and cognitive computing technologies allow non-computer specialists to extract useful information from the mountains of data generated every day, but in a more natural, less number crunching-oriented way.

Delivered through the cloud, IBM’s Watson analyses vast amounts of data, understands complex questions posed in natural language and suggests evidence-based answers. It continuously learns, gaining in value and knowledge over time, from previous interactions.

David Stokes, Chief Executive for IBM in the UK and Ireland, said: “We’re at the dawn of a new era of cognitive computing, during which advanced data-centric computing models and open innovation approaches will allow technology to greatly augment decision-making capabilities for business and government. 

The Hartree Centre, run by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, is already helping businesses like Unilever and Glaxo SmithKline use high-performance computing to improve the stability of home products like fabric softeners and to pinpoint links between genes and diseases.

Professor John Womersley, Chief Executive of STFC, said: “Data intensive techniques are transforming every discipline of science and connecting these capabilities to the needs of industry has the potential to revolutionise every business sector."

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