Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Big Demand for Big Data Scientists in Europe

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Big Demand for Big Data Scientists in Europe

Article excerpt

Long before the term "big data" emerged, Europe already had a pioneer in the field--Alan Turing, the British mathematician who broke Nazi Germany's Enigma code and is widely viewed as the father of modern computing and algorithms. Now, the European Union, in a push to advance its data-driven economy of the future, hopes to train a generation of data scientists like him.

Today, data has swept into nearly every industry and business, becoming an important factor of production, alongside labor and capital. As the amount of data captured by enterprises, social media, and the Internet of Things increases, the ability to analyze large sets of data has emerged as a critical competitive factor. This torrent of data, dubbed "big data," can enable companies to gain new insights into areas such as customer behavior, production, and innovation, all of which can impact the bottom line. Industry research firm IDC expects the market for big data technology and services to grow from 1.8 billion [euro] ($2.0 billion) in 2013 to 5.3 billion [euro] in 2018.

For specialists able to analyze that torrent of data and sort the useful information out of it, opportunity abounds. The explosive growth of data is driving demand for experts who can crunch it, apply mathematical models to analyze it, and then suggest how to use the information to make decisions. There is a real dearth of people with these skills, and nowhere perhaps is that shortage more acute than in Europe. Far too few have followed in the footsteps of Turing, whose life and achievements are featured in the new film Imitation Game, which won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in February. One of the acknowledged reasons for the shortage is the continent's lack of a Silicon Valley and Internet giants like Google and Facebook, and the opportunities they create for data scientists.

Few will dispute that when it comes the Internet, Europe still plays a supporting role to the United States. Globally, US-based companies represent nearly 67 percent of the total market capitalization of public Internet companies, while European companies account for less than 4 percent, according to Capgemini. Germany, France, and the United Kingdom combined have 15 Internet firms valued at more than $1 billion, compared to the 87 in the United States. Europe has yet to produce its own Internet champion in the same league as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

The big data revolution could change that, if the EU has its way. The continent is taking steps to make the region a leader in big data. A number of national initiatives are already under way to train a new generation of data scientists. The United Kingdom has been particularly active. At the end of last year, the country announced a new world-class research institute for big data, the Alan Turing Institute for Data Science. "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 U.K. and across the globe to break new boundaries in how we use big data in a fast-moving, competitive world," Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, said at the opening ceremony.

The institute, to be established in London's new Knowledge Center, will be funded over five years with 42 million [pounds sterling] ($65 million) from the British government. The university partners will contribute further funding. The institute, which will also seek to partner with other businesses and government bodies, is being coordinated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

London is also the home of the Open Data Institute (ODI), cofounded by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web. Its aim is to stimulate economic, environmental, and social innovation through a system of open data sharing and analysis. The nonprofit organization has already helped set up 18 open data-based companies in the United Kingdom and established a network of research hubs across Europe and beyond. …

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