IBM has pledged to provide technology and support worth £200m towards big data research to build on funding of £113m from the UK government at the Hartree Centre in Daresbury.
The government announced the funding during the Autumn Statement in December 2014 as part of an effort to ensure that new avenues of technology development are supported in the UK.
IBM has now said that it will provide the Hartree Centre with access to its technologies, including the Watson cognitive computing platform, and will station 24 IBM researchers at the Centre to work with existing researchers and boost knowledge sharing.
The company will also work with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which runs Hartree, to turn any developments and breakthroughs at the Centre into intellectual property assets that can be commercialised.
IBM put a figure of £200m on this support and said it is vital that big data research is adequately resourced to unlock its full potential, as outlined by David Stokes, chief executive for IBM UK and Ireland.
“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,” he said.
“The expansion of our collaboration with STFC builds on Hartree's successful engagement with industry and its record in commercialising technological developments, and provides a world-class environment using Watson and OpenPOWER technologies to extend the boundaries of big data and cognitive computing.”
Universities and science minister Jo Johnson said that making use of big data is a key element of the UK’s future economy.
“We live in an information economy. From the smart devices we use every day to the supercomputers that helped find the Higgs Boson, the power of advanced computing means we now have access to vast amounts of data,” he said.
“This partnership with IBM, which builds on our £113m 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.”
The Hartree Centre is already working with major firms such as Unilever and GlaxoSmithKline, using high-performance computing to improve the development of products and find links between genes and diseases.
Professor John Womersley, chief executive of the STFC, added that big data mining has the potential to "revolutionise every business sector” and that all efforts to improve knowledge and understanding in this field are to be welcomed.
“The government’s five-year investment in the Hartree Centre will deliver a step-change in capability in this area, and will bring in significant knowledge and expertise from IBM Research that will help ensure that our science and industry remains at the very forefront of research and development,” he said.
The announcement comes the day after the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council appointed Cambridge University alumnus Howard Covington as chairman of the £42m Alan Turing Institute.
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