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The University of Edinburgh has always been at the centre of data science. Thanks to a partnership with Intel through the Alan Turing Institute (ATI), it's 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. 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.

The Intel/University of Edinburgh partnership

Experts from both parties are working together on a research programme focused on high-performance computing and data analytics, alongside an ethical research stream. Ethics are important in this sector, where using personal data poses significant ethical challenges.

Initial work identified common technical challenges in the technology sector, used research to better understand and interpret these challenges, then focused on developing solutions. 

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 has also built 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.

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."

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