The Alan Turing Institute has launched its operations with a partnership with GCHQ aimed at working on ways to benefit data science and analytics research in the UK.
Both organisations will work together on policy and best practices for the use of big data, as well as cooperate on training and research in data analytics methods that could be applied in open access and commercial environments.
Robert Hannigan, GCHQ’s director, explained that the partnership is an opportunity to maintain World War II codebreaker Alan Turing‘s legacy, while also developing new ideas and methods around big data and analytics.
“We believe that the Institute will allow GCHQ researchers, together with our counterparts in national security and defence in the public sector, to work with the best in the field, as well as providing the opportunity to share and develop our own techniques and ideas across a broad array of sectors,” he said.
Howard Covington, recently appointed chairman of the Alan Turing Institute, echoed Hannigan’s views.
“GCHQ will support collaborative research on scientific matters of joint interest across a broad spectrum of possible applications,” he said.
“Through CESG, GCHQ’s information security arm, they will also advise us on our own data and information risk policies and practices. Like us, they are committed to excellence in data science and to supporting the development of the next generation of data scientists.”
The Alan Turing Institute is funded by the government to the tune of £42m, and will be based in the British Library in London’s King’s Cross.
The facility is a joint venture between Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, Warwick and UCL universities and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and will focus on finding ways to break the boundaries of current big data use.
Institute director professor Andrew Blake, who is currently employed at the UK arm of Microsoft Research, will oversee its running in a five-year appointment that will begin in October.
Blake said he is pleased to be joining the Institute. “The vision of bringing together mathematical and computer scientists from the country’s top universities to develop the new discipline of data science, through an independent institute with strategic links to commerce and industry, is very compelling,” he added.
“The Institute has a societally important mission and ambitious research goals. We will go all out to achieve them.”
The Institute will tap into supercomputer power to fuel big data research, courtesy of a partnership that provides access to EPSRC’s Archer supercomputer at the University of Edinburgh.
Archer is the largest supercomputer for scientific research in the UK, and the Institute also has a partnership with supercomputer company Cray, which will provide support to enable Archer to make use of advanced analytics capabilities to support the research.
Covington noted how the partnerships will bring supercomputing power to bear on the challenges of crunching big data effectively.
“Being able to use the Archer supercomputer for data analytics projects will enable industry and the government to lead the way in showing how leveraging big data can have a hugely positive impact on the UK’s economy and international competitiveness,” he said.
The processing grunt of supercomputers is often used at research and prediction-heavy organisations, such as the Met Office which will receive a £97m supercomputer in September to aid weather prediction.