Smart Analytics centre to expand Essex resources for data-driven research

Article dated: 6 February 2014

The University of Essex - home to the UK Data Archive since 1967 as well as its newly established UK Data Service - has announced plans for a new Data Research Centre for Smart Analytics.

The new £5 million Data Research Centre has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for five years. This is part of the £14 million second phase of the ESRC’s investment in big data, announced today by Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, MP.

The Data Research Centre will be based within the University's new £21 million state-of-the-art building housing Essex Business School. The building is adjacent to the Knowledge Gateway development, providing a high quality environment for innovative business start-ups and SMEs. The Centre will be led by Essex, working in partnership with the Universities of East Anglia and Kent, who together form the Eastern Academic Research Consortium (ARC), and with partners in business and local government.

The Data Research Centre will make data, routinely collected by business and local government organisations, accessible for academics as a national resource in order to undertake outstanding research in the social sciences in ways that safeguard individuals’ identities. That research will provide a sound evidence-base to inform policy development, implementation and evaluation.

With the right analytics, big data can give organisations, both large and small, the competitive edge by helping them improve their business decisions, as well as offer insight into how they can expand. What the Centre at Essex will also offer is a suite of big data solutions – from training to consultancy to help the business and local government communities maximise the value of their big data to research the drivers of economic growth and the provision of services.

Its data storage facility for business and local government data will allow researchers to access data in a secure environment that guarantees confidentiality of the information. The Centre will also manage, curate and link the data in such a way that new insights can be made available to the users. The Centre takes advantage of the existing experience and expertise in the field of secure big data storage and safe access at Essex within the UK Data Service and the new Administrative Data Service based there.

The University has an international reputation for the collection, curation, management and analysis of big data and is home to the UK Data Archive – the UK's largest collection of digital research data in the social sciences and humanities. The School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering at Essex already collaborates with companies around the world on analysing large datasets and is also working with the South East Local Enterprise Partnership to make the University a leading centre of excellence for big data analytics.