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Training the talent of the future


A multi-million pound training centre designed to plug the skills gap in one of the fastest growing areas of computer technology is to be based at Newcastle University.

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Cloud Computing for Big Data was announced today by Chancellor of the Exchequer, The Rt. Hon George Osborne MP as part of a £106 million investment to boost postgraduate training in a wide range of engineering and scientific fields that are important to the UK’s economy.

Led by Newcastle University’s Professor Paul Watson and Professor Darren Wilkinson, the new Centre will be jointly hosted by the Schools of Computing Science and Mathematics and Statistics.

Established to train more than 50 PhD students over the next eight years, it is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Newcastle University and Industry partners including Red Hat and Microsoft.  The students will benefit from the expertise of academics, working across a range of disciplines, and leading industry experts.

This is the second EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training awarded to Newcastle University’s world-leading School of Computing Science in the last five months.  In November, EPSRC gave the go-ahead for the Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics, which will explore how digital technologies can be used to promote public participation in the design and delivery of local services, including education, public health and social care and planning.

Paul Watson, Professor of Computing Science, said: “This is fantastic news and we are so grateful for the huge amount of support we received to help us secure this bid.

“Cloud computing provides vast computing resources on-demand. It has become important due to the growth of "big data": the large, complex, datasets now being created in almost all fields of activity, from healthcare to e-commerce.

“Unfortunately, due to a lack of tools and skilled people, the full potential of cloud computing for extracting knowledge from big data has rarely been achieved outside a few large companies. It is estimated that this shortage is costing UK industry millions of pounds each year.

“The Newcastle University CDT will fill this gap by producing the multi-disciplinary experts in the statistics and computing science required to extract knowledge from big data.”

Supporting the bid, Dr Mark Little, CTO JBoss, Red Hat, said: “Given the strategic importance of Big Data to the UK economy and industry concerns over the severe shortage of those with expertise in this area, this CDT is crucial to meeting a strategic UK need.”

Today’s announcement builds on last year’s success when the University secured £2m to develop a state-of-the-art Cloud Innovation and Data Analytics Centre.  Using private and public cloud resources for learning and development, the aim is to bring together industry, the public sector and academia to boost innovation and skills across the region.

Funded as part of a £6m Government investment to improve broadband connectivity across Newcastle, the project is an integral part of the University’s operation on Science Central, a 24-acre development on the former Scottish & Newcastle Brewery which is being delivered by Newcastle Science City to create a landmark urban quarter in the city.

Science Central is set to become a hub for scientific business, research and innovation and the new EPSRC CDT will be located in the first building to be built on the site called The Core, which is owned by Newcastle City Council and is expected to open in Autumn 2014.  Eventually, the two EPSRC Centres will be moved into the University’s building on the site, an investment which was announced in December 2013. The £50m research centre is due to be completed by 2018.

Both cloud computing projects have been supported by Newcastle City Council and Newcastle Science City, which is a partnership between the Council and the University.

Andrew Lewis, Assistant Chief Executive, Newcastle City Council, said: “The City Council, Newcastle University and Newcastle Science City believe the research group’s expertise in the application of this technology is critical to the city’s future economic growth and we are developing a long term vision to ensure economic success.  The private and public sectors need creative, talented and skilled people to enable to transition to cloud and the CDT is a key component of making this vision a reality.”

published on: 28 March 2014