The Data Science Institute, which was announced at a Tech City event with the Prime Minister, will provide a hub for data-driven research and education at Imperial and is set to open in 2014. The Institute will cultivate multidisciplinary collaborations between the College's academic experts and research partners to create the next generation of big data technologies.
Work in the new Institute will underpin major developments across the College’s research, in areas including healthcare, financial services and city infrastructure. It will foster the next generation of data researchers and engineers by developing a range of postgraduate and executive courses.
Professor Yike Guo, Director of the Data Science Institute from the Department of Computing at Imperial College London, said: “Data is the new natural resource of the twenty first century. If we harness it effectively, it could drive innovation and improve our daily lives in many significant ways.
“Healthcare is an obvious area, with the increasing amount of information available from hospital records, molecular profiling technologies and body sensors. This data can be used to simultaneously analyse cause of disease and effectiveness of treatment for individual patients. Systems to feed this information back to hospitals, GPs and pharmaceutical companies, will improve personalised therapies, providing better diagnoses and treatments. One of our missions is to turn such ideas into reality.”
Data science deals with collecting, processing, managing, analysing, interpreting and visualising the large and complex datasets that are becoming commonplace in modern research. Imperial’s Data Science Institute will build on the College’s critical mass of multi-disciplinary expertise, including visual analytics, cloud computing, data mining and management.
For example, researchers at the MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre are examining around 100,000 patient samples per year to learn more about phenomes – the biological results of people’s genes and environment – to help them to determine the causes of disease and indicate how treatments can be tailored for individual patients.
In other areas, academics at Imperial’s Space and Atmospheric Physics Group are processing large amounts of satellite data aimed at better understanding the Earth’s climate system. Researchers from the Imperial College Business School and Faculty of Engineering are using data fusion and analysis via the Digital City Exchange programme to explore ways for digitally linking utilities and services within cities to enable new technical and business opportunities. Academics are also using observational data to model and improve urban design to make cities more sustainable by reducing air pollution.
Sir Keith O’Nions, President & Rector of Imperial College London, said: “Imperial is uniquely positioned to address big data issues. The College’s new Data Science Institute places data at the core of modern science and engineering. It will enable our academics to drive forward the next generation of big data technologies.
“We live in a world of unprecedented data creation – from social networks, digital cities and healthcare to molecular biology and astrophysics. Data drives our scientific research and impacts our daily lives. Understanding and harnessing this mass of information requires a range of specialist skills that our academics are well-placed to exploit. The development and application of these skills will revolutionise the way we conduct scientific research.
“Imperial’s exceptional combination of scientists, engineers, medics and business experts will collaborate across the disciplines, and with leading businesses, to build new big data technologies and ultimately improve quality of life.”
The Data Science Institute will open at Imperial's South Kensington campus. However data science and the Institute will form an integral part of the College's £3 billion vision for Imperial West, the 25 acre research and innovation campus that will stimulate new investment in research, yield economic growth and boost London's thriving start-up scene. The co-location of research, business and healthcare on this scale will be unprecedented anywhere in the world.
Professor David Gann CBE, Vice President (Development and Innovation) of Imperial College London, said: “The potential for data science at Imperial is phenomenal.
“We are experiencing a perfect storm of technological innovation. Mobile internet, cloud computing and the Internet of Things are creating data at an astonishing rate, which our Data Science Institute is extremely well placed to harness.
“Imperial’s London location and its ability to work with partners across sectors and academic disciplines offer the ideal platform for this Institute to accelerate new applications from big data research.
“Data is becoming a new kind of utility. The incredible growth of big data, open data and new data are providing opportunities for improved public services, innovation in business models and new ways of living. Imperial’s Data Science Institute will place us at the heart of this revolution.”