UK big data research gets £600m boost from Government – really?

Among the coverage of the Autumn Statement, my ear was caught by the mention of £600m extra for science in the UK. I was even more cheered to learn that this was targeted at five growth areas including the famous Big Data (I belong to the faction that contends there is no such thing, but we’ll take the money anyway). But the more I have looked into it, the more illusory this seems. The statement from whatever the Board of Trade is called nowadays seems to list only three of the areas (Big Data is (are?) still there) in a rather cautious way, as if they are merely indicative of what the money could be used for.

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And most tellingly, they are clear that the money:

will be invested in facilities for technological research and development and Research Council infrastructure

Which might be good for synthetic biology or aerospace, but frankly we’ve all got computers and we don’t need to troop along to the ESRC to borrow one. So I rather doubt that any of the dosh will make its way to Big Data, instead being swallowed up in propping up the Research Councils in difficult financial times. I’m not sure how this will produce the desired impact on economic growth. It hurts me to say it, but Michael Heseltine wouldn’t have missed the target in this vague, bumbling sort of way.

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