UK data science initiative begins with £30m investment

A new government-backed data science initiative is awarding £30 million in funding to six sites across the UK to address healthcare issues.

Health Data Research UK (HDRUK) said it has given funding to each site because of world-class expertise, and a track record in successful research leading to new knowledge, scientific discovery, and insight.

HDRUK said the sites will work in close partnership with NHS bodies and the public to translate research findings into benefits for patients and populations.

The six sites will work collaboratively as foundation partners in HDRUK to improve people’s lives by harnessing data science across the UK.

This is the first phased of investment to establish HDRUK – a further £24 million will be invested in upcoming activities, including a Future Talent Programme and work to address targeted data research challenges through additional partnership sites.

HDRUK stressed its commitment to “the highest ethical standards” and said it will work with experts in public engagement to ensure the public voice is central to its activity.

The goal is to deliver scientific discovery, training for the next generation of data scientists, and the creation of UK-wide health data research network.

HDRUK is a joint investment co-ordinated by the Medical Research Council, with partners including the British Heart Foundation, the National Institute for Health Research, and the Economic and Social Research Council.

Successful HDRUK sites are:

  • The Wellcome Sanger Institute and the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge;
  • Imperial College London, King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine;
  • A site in the Midlands encompassing Birmingham University, Leicester University, Nottingham University, Warwick University, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust;
  • Oxford University;
  • A Scottish site including Edinburgh University, Aberdeen University, Glasgow University, St Andrews University, and Strathclyde University.
  • Wales and Northern Ireland, including Swansea University and Queen’s University Belfast.

Prof Andrew Morris

Professor Andrew Morris, director of Health Data Research UK, commented:

“I am delighted to make today’s announcement, which marks the start of a unique opportunity for scientists, researchers and clinicians to use their collective expertise to transform the health of the population.”

He said the HDRUK sites, encompassing 22 universities and research institutes, would work together with the NHS and industry partners to harness data science on a national scale.

“This will unleash the potential for data and technologies to drive breakthroughs in medical research, improving the way we are able to prevent, detect and diagnose diseases like cancer, heart disease and asthma.

“I am grateful to our funders who recognise the importance of collaboration at scale, and the pivotal contribution of health data research to the UK’s ambition to be a global leader in life sciences, for health and economic benefit.”

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