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Find out why global giant Intel chose a Scottish partner, the University of Edinburgh, for their innovative data science project.

Thomas Bayes Centre building with people walking in front of it
The Thomas Bayes Centre, which will house the ATI activity

Groundbreaking technologies aren’t developed in isolation. Some of the greatest advances in the tech world are the result of companies working together, or partnerships between companies and universities.

Thanks to our academic excellence in software and data science, as well as our innovative, fast-growing tech companies, Scotland offers plenty of opportunities for collaboration.

The University of Edinburgh and the Alan Turing Institute (ATI)

The University of Edinburgh has always been at the centre of data science. Thanks to a new partnership with Intel through the ATI, they’re helping to develop algorithms that will influence the future of computing and data analytics.  

The ATI is the UK’s national centre for data science, based at the British Library. Following a public competition with international peer review, the institute was founded in 2015 as a joint venture by the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, University College London, Warwick and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The University of Edinburgh is working with the ATI to achieve the next set of data science breakthroughs and have them deployed in to the wider world.

Six priority sectors have been identified as the focus of this research:

  • Engineering
  • Technology
  • Defence and security
  • Smart cities
  • Financial services
  • Health and wellbeing

In addition to its work with Intel in the technology sector, the ATI has partnered with the Lloyds Register Foundation and GCHQ on research projects in engineering and defence and security. 

The Intel/University of Edinburgh partnership

Experts from both organisations are working together on a research programme focused on high-performance computing and data analytics, alongside an ethical research stream. This is important in this sector where the usage of personal data poses significant ethical challenges.

Initial work will identify common technical challenges in the technology sector, use research to better understand and interpret these challenges, then work to develop solutions. This will create immediate and lasting impacts for the technology sector and will likely result in the development of new software and technology developments.

In addition, Intel has a dedicated advanced computing hardware architecture team at the university, so that new algorithms developed will feed into the design of Intel’s future generations of microprocessors.

Why the University of Edinburgh?

Intel was attracted to the ATI because it offers a ‘one-stop-shop’ for data science. Also, the University of Edinburgh has a 30-year track record of pioneering novel computer architectures. It's home to the biggest informatics department in the UK, giving the company access to skilled data science researchers and students. It also hosts ‘ARCHER’, the UK’s primary academic research supercomputer. The multi-disciplinary nature of the University of Edinburgh, particularly the range of research expertise, was important for Intel. They were also drawn to the university’s international reach and relationships.

For Intel, Edinburgh was the ideal location to create a hub of expertise that would allow them to engage with the wider data science community.

“The University of Edinburgh is an attractive partner for Intel due to the international excellence in its research capabilities, its staff and strong connections with other institutions such as ATI. Efficient software engineering of big data algorithms on new microprocessor architectures will increasingly determine the competitiveness of data-intensive businesses across the globe. Intel’s Exascale Architecture Team in Edinburgh is part of the intellectual foundation on which future success will be built,” said Rod O’Shea, Intel Europe, Middle East and Africa sales and marketing director.

This project with the ATI is the latest development in what has been a long collaborative relationship between the university’s academics and Intel’s hardware designers.

The University of Edinburgh is part of a wider Scottish innovation pooling network focused on data science called the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA). This is a collaboration of Scottish universities that provides a large pool of experienced graduates for companies such as Intel to tap into.

The university is also currently building the new Thomas Bayes Centre, a building to house the ATI activity as well as Scotland’s Data Lab. It's named in honour of an Edinburgh graduate who was responsible for the research that underpins data science. This facility will house up to 600 data science professionals once complete.

What's next for the ATI and University of Edinburgh?

Edinburgh’s participation in the ATI is being led by Richard Kenway, Vice Principal and Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy. He is confident that the university’s collaboration with Intel will attract other companies wanting high performance data analytics.

“When major tech companies locate their R&D staff at the University of Edinburgh, they benefit from each other as well as our academic staff,” he said. 

"Companies such as Intel are finding that working with a multi-disciplinary, industry-focused university, which has one of the best informatics universities in the world, based in one of the best cities in the world, provides the breadth of expertise needed to compete in the new data-driven era."

What's happening in data science in Scotland