National Innovation Centre for Data

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National Innovation Centre for Data identified by the Royal Society as key to unlocking benefits of data science

A report released by the Royal Society has identified the National Innovation Centre for Data as an example of how access to data can be widened in a well governed way.

Demand for workers with specialist data skills like data scientists and data engineers has more than tripled over five years (+231%), according to a labour market analysis commissioned for a new Royal Society report out today. Demand for all types of workers grew by 36% over the same period.

If the UK wants to meet the needs of employers and remain a leading data research nation, the report calls for action in four areas:

  • Ensuring our education system provides all young people with data science knowledge and skills, which will require curriculum change within ten years  
  • Advancing professional skills and nurturing talent
  • Enabling movement and sharing of talent between academia, the public sector and business
  • Widening access to data in a well-governed way

The potential of data science skills for public and commercial benefit is widely acknowledged. However, it is important that this is done in an ethical and well-governed way.

To get the best value from data for the widest range of organisations means that opening data in a secure and well-governed way should enable societal benefit to be accessed most easily.

The report identifies the National Innovation Centre for Data approach as one way of widening access to data.

Reacting to the report, Deputy Director of the National Innovation Centre for Data Barry Hodgson (pictured) said: "We very much welcome the findings of the Royal Society report. The demand for data skills is growing and action is needed. We are playing our part by forming collaborative projects focused on organisations’ specific challenges and opportunities."

Organisations who work with the National Innovation Centre for Data will be able to increase their productivity by optimising their existing operations, and to grow by launching new data-driven products and services.

Hodgson added: "We've already seen the impact of working collaboratively with companies. We've published two case studies recently that have shown how, by working with us, organisations can grow their data skills whilst creating operational savings and generating new revenue streams.”

Data Skills Task Force

Also highlighted in the report are ongoing initiatives by The Data Skills Taskforce, led by Dr Matthew Forshaw, Lecturer in Data Science at Newcastle University, and Data Skills Policy Leader to The Alan Turing Institute. Dr Forshaw also founded Newcastle University's Industrial Masters in Data Science.

The Data Skills Taskforce, chaired by Accenture and the Alan Turing Institute, sets an agenda for change to inspire, educate and upskill data talent, drawing on best practice from the UK’s leading institutions. The taskforce was established to review, promote and take forward key elements of Analytic Britain, across schools, universities and the labour market at large. It comprises UK businesses, learned societies, data skills stakeholders and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

The main aims of the Data Skills Taskforce are to promote the importance of data skills, highlight critical skills gaps and monitor progress against the recommendations of Analytic Britain. The Data Skills Taskforce is currently taking forward a platform to help SMEs develop their data science capabilities, is working to quantify the UK data skills gap which is currently significant and growing, and considering whether a data science foundation courses for all undergraduates is required.

Dr Forshaw said: "It is fantastic to see recognition of the many excellent initiatives promoting data skills nationally, including passionate and hardworking contributors to The Data Skills Taskforce. Changes in the labour market, and to recruitment practices, bring significant challenges of effectively quantifying the supply and demand of data skills both regionally, and across industry sectors. Tackling this challenge exists as one key target of the Data Skills Taskforce."

A collaborative ecosystem for data innovation

Later this year, the National Innovation Centre for Data will move into a new purpose built home. The Catalyst is a £50M building that is part of the Newcastle Helix development.

Hodgson explained: "The Catalyst will be home for both the National Innovation Centre for Ageing and the National Innovation Centre for Data. Our rolling programme will include a range of related activities, including awareness-raising events, themed business and technical seminars as well as creating a network to connect organisations to data skills.”

"The building has been designed to encourage and create a vibrant eco-system around data science. As well housing the NICD core technical team and related projects, there are opportunities for organisations to locate as tenants in the building to benefit from this environment. It's exciting to think about the conversations, creativity and innovation that will happen there."

Organisations interested in tenancy options in The Catalyst should contact the Newcastle Helix team: info@newcastlehelix.com

Barry Hodgson, Deputy Director

published on: 9 May 2019