Big Data

The University of Cambridge is to be one of the five universities that will lead the new Alan Turing Institute, announced the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills today.

Alan Turing’s genius played a pivotal role in cracking the codes that helped us win the Second World War. It is therefore only right that our country’s top universities are chosen to lead this new institute named in his honour

Vince Cable

The Alan Turing Institute will promote the development and use of advanced mathematics, computer science, algorithms and ‘Big Data’ – the collection, analysis and interpretation of immense volumes of data – for human benefit.  Located at the British Library in London, it will bring together leaders in advanced mathematics and computing science from the five of the UK’s most respected universities – Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, UCL and Warwick – and partners.

Dr Cable said: “Alan Turing’s genius played a pivotal role in cracking the codes that helped us win the Second World War. It is therefore only right that our country’s top universities are chosen to lead this new institute named in his honour.

“Headed by the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, Warwick and UCL - the Alan Turing Institute will attract the best data scientists and mathematicians from the UK and across the globe to break new boundaries in how we use big data in a fast moving, competitive world.” 

The delivery of the Institute is being coordinated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which invests in research and postgraduate training across the UK. The Institute is being funded over five years with £42 million from the UK government. The selected university partners will contribute further funding. In addition, the Institute will seek to partner with other business and government bodies.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive said: “The Alan Turing Institute will draw on the best of the best academic talent in the country. It will use the power of mathematics, statistics, and computer science to analyze Big Data in many ways, including the ability to improve online security. Big Data is going to play a central role in how we run our industries, businesses and services. Economies that invest in research are more likely to be strong and resilient; the Alan Turing Institute will help us be both.”

The University of Cambridge has a strong historical association with Alan Turing, who studied as an undergraduate from 1931 to 1934 at King's College, from where he gained first-class honours in mathematics. Research at Cambridge continues his legacy of groundbreaking work in mathematics and computer science, extending into many areas that he helped pioneer, including mathematical biology, language modelling, statistical inference and artificial intelligence.

Cambridge researchers will play a critical role in shaping the research agenda for the Alan Turing Institute, bringing in world experts in mathematics, statistics, computer science and information engineering, and linking to the research challenges of the future, such as the study of huge genomic datasets, or the development of the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array.

In 2013, the University created Cambridge Big Data, a cross-School strategic initiative bringing together experts in a number of themes. These range from the fundamental technologies of data science, to applications in disciplines as diverse as astronomy, clinical medicine and education, as well as experts exploring the ethical, legal, social and economic questions that are critical to making data science work in practice. The research developed at the Alan Turing Institute will link to the first of these themes, allowing for a rich exchange of ideas within a broad researcher community, and a joined-up and multidisciplinary approach to the big data challenges of the future.

Professor Paul Alexander, who heads Cambridge Big Data, said:  “Modern technology allows for the collection of immense volumes of data, but the challenge of converting this ‘Big Data’ into useful information is enormous. The Alan Turing Institute is an immensely exciting opportunity for the collective expertise of Cambridge and its partners to rise to this very important challenge and make a huge contribution to the future success of the UK economy, our ability to provide health and societal benefits and the ability of British universities to remain at the cutting edge of research.”

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