Multi-million pound big data centre aims to solve world’s environmental issues

The University of Reading is set to open a multi-million pound big data analytics centre with the aim of solving the world's environmental problems.

The facility has received funding of £13 million and aims to solve complex environmental issues such as climate change-induced global food security and the prediction of extreme weather events.

The centre should ultimately be able to turn large, complex environmental datasets from satellite research into commercially viable ideas.

The project has already secured a £5.6 million Catalyst Fund grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), due to be paid over five years. An extra £7.15 million is also being provided by a consortium of 13 partners including Microsoft, Sainsbury's and the Met Office. An additional £20 million is also hoped to be raised by 2020.

The centre will provide training to the next generation of environmental analysts and also support new business development through projects that show how environmental data can play a key role in driving job growth.

Sir David Bell, vice chancellor at the university, said that the facility will illustrate the potential of big data analytics to business leaders and policymakers.

"There are staggering amounts of data being produced every day," he said. "Data underpins our economy, driving scientific discovery and growth - that's why the UK needs the research base to handle massive data volumes and turn them into viable business concepts."

Sir David also confirmed that the centre would help plug the innovation gap in the industry, by unlocking the potential of the UK's most-skilled analysts.

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The environmental research facility also plans to have a new chief executive and team in place shortly.