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Oxford named a key founder of Alan Turing Institute

Oxford is one of five universities selected to lead the Alan Turing Institute, Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, announced today. Oxford University will play a key role in the creation and the activities of the Alan Turing Institute.

Oxford’s involvement in the Institute will be led by five departments: Department of Engineering Science, the Mathematical Institute, Department of Computer Science, Department of Statistics, and the Oxford Internet Institute.

The Institute will build on the UK's existing academic strengths and help position the country as a world leader in the analysis and application of big data and algorithm research. Its headquarters will be based at the British Library in London.

Business Secretary, Vince Cable, said: ‘Alan Turing’s genius played a pivotal role in cracking the codes that helped us win the Second World War. It is therefore only right that our country’s top universities are chosen to lead this new institute named in his honour.

‘Headed by the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, Warwick and UCL - the Alan Turing Institute will attract the best data scientists and mathematicians from the UK and across the globe to break new boundaries in how we use big data in a fast moving, competitive world.’

The delivery of the Institute is being coordinated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) which invests in research and postgraduate training across the UK. The Institute is being funded over five years with £42 million from the UK government. The selected university partners will contribute further funding. In addition, the Institute will seek to partner with other business and government bodies.

Tapping into Oxford University’s world-class research

Researchers across Oxford University are already conducting world-class research in data science and analytics, as evidenced by the results of the recent Research Excellence Framework (the Department of Engineering Science is ranked top engineering department in the country). The new Institute will tap into world-leading strengths and achievements across these scientific disciplines.

For example, Oxford Information Engineering, part of the Department of Engineering Science, is at the forefront of intelligent data analytics, with world-class expertise in machine learning, computer vision and robotics. Our algorithms can query all recordings ever made and held in the BBC archives, we have pioneered cars that can drive themselves, developed systems that can provide principled data analysis at a scale beyond the human and have transformed domains ranging from Astronomy to Zoology, from Finance to Healthcare and from Crowdsourcing to Social Network Analysis. We enjoy a breathtaking array of external engagement, providing innovations that are embedded at the heart of commerce and industry.

Exoplanet detection - methodExoplanet detection - fluctuations in brightness
Pictures above show detection of an exoplanet by enhancing and detecting the faint dips in brightness as it transits in front of its host star. Oxford methods are able to enhance the raw data coming from NASA’s Kepler space telescope enabling better detection.

In the Department of Computer Science machine learning and natural language processing research has led to a new collaboration with Google Deep Mind, which will ultimately enable computers to understand human languages better.

In human genetics statistical modelling and inference is now routine to measure a million variable positions across the genome in thousands of people. Statistical models and algorithms, developed in Oxford, changed the field by using these data to make predictions based on reference genomes. In one application, a meta-analysis of three studies involving over 10,000 individuals and 2.2 million common genetic variations (SNPs) led to the discovery of 6 new genes that were strongly associated with inheritance of type 2 diabetes.

Professor Ian Walmsley, Oxford University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), said: “Advances in data science and algorithms have the potential to transform our everyday lives and the economy and we are delighted to be part of this new venture. We look forward to working with our partners at The Alan Turing Institute and drawing on world-class research at Oxford University across a diverse range of disciplines to ensure that this is translated into new commercial opportunities and innovations that benefit society as a whole”.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive said: “The Alan Turing Institute will draw on the best of the best academic talent in the country. It will use the power of mathematics, statistics, and computer science to analyze Big Data in many ways, including the ability to improve online security. Big Data is going to play a central role in how we run our industries, businesses and services. Economies that invest in research are more likely to be strong and resilient; the Alan Turing Institute will help us be both”.

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