Frontier research for growth and recovery: our vision for Digital Nottingham


June 28th, 2021

Guest blog by Professor John Gathergood

Technology-driven radical transformations in the economy and society, propelled forward by the Covid-19 pandemic, are changing the ways we work and live. At the same time, so is our understanding of the role of places, people and partnerships to deliver growth and change. Central to this transformation is the way in which our world uses data, facilitated by digital technologies, to learn and develop new skills, create opportunities, and deliver growth and recovery.

Digital Nottingham is our endeavour to transform our city – its potential, the skills and ambitions of our community, and deliver growth and recovery – through data science, technology and innovation. As a place-based initiative aligned to the priorities of government and funders, this will see a new form of collaboration between the university and the city.  Digital Nottingham seeks to embrace a broad range of areas in which we can build partnerships to address key challenges from climate change to health care across a wide range of disciplines including mathematics, computer science, engineering, medicine and arts.

As we launch our Digital Nottingham programme, we are excited to announce our first two initiatives that will propel forward our frontier research collaborations in the area of financial services and financial technology – just one of the research themes of the programme.

A new partnership with KPMG, the UK’s leading business advisory firm, seeks to drive insight for clients and support the regional economic growth agenda. Research in partnership with KPMG will leverage data science to inform business decision-making. At the same time, we are joining forces with the UK’s leading technology venture builder, Blenheim Chalcot, to link the city’s next generation of scale-up businesses to university expertise which can help them innovate and grow.

These collaborations are driven by shared vision of data for good, and facilitated by technology overcoming borders and the traditional challenges to global collaboration. Using digital platforms, our research in data science reaches from Nottingham to Ningbo to New York. Our Digital Nottingham programme features research partnerships with global research leaders, including the University of Chicago and Harvard University, and global transformation leaders in industry and policy, with a shared vision of data-driven discovery.

Yet the global mindset of our ambitious programme of data-driven discovery also creates new opportunities in our own city. Nottingham has a rich heritage in data-driven financial services, being home to some of the Europe’s leading financial services providers including globally recognised businesses such as Experian and Capital One. The city is now experiencing a new generation of innovation firms enlivening the culture of growth and opportunity. These firms are based in the city and keen to engage with us as a university as part of their growth projects.

We are excited by the prospect of new collaborations focusing on applications of data science to new forms of data, including unique real-time data to which the latest methods from artificial intelligence and machine learning can be applied, and new opportunities to contribute to data-driven start-ups and commercial opportunities. We will bring together our expertise from computer science, data science, economics, finance, mathematics and beyond. Central to these ambitions is the development of talent. From high-skilled advanced analytics to first-time data wranglers, Digital Nottingham will create opportunity for all in data science and build skills for the future.

Nottingham has grown to become the UK’s leading destination for data science start-ups, through investment in the city by Blenheim Chalcot, and a high-skilled cluster of firms engaged with financial services including KPMG. With significant government investment in data science in Nottingham planned for coming years, including the development of the new HMRC location in the city, the city has in prospect new opportunities for growth, development and regeneration, delivering high-skilled employment, quality jobs and a new growth narrative for our region.

We envisage an open community of innovation and discovery, with a shared sense of purpose and belief in the new growth narrative. These collaborations will grow our community as we birth our plans for Digital Nottingham, in partnership with the city council, business and local community.

Find out more and get involved

Digital Nottingham offers exciting opportunities for our researchers. Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange, is leading a programme to scope this vision, which will include a series of consultation meetings to discuss the university’s key strengths in relation to data science and digital transformation. To find out more and get involved, please contact Dr Maria Arruda (Research Development Manager, Research and Innovation) or Dr Jo Barwick (Senior Executive, Creative and Digital).

John Gathergood is Professor of Economics and Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange in the Faculty of Social Sciences.

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