Data is the new oil: South West set to become world leader in big data

big-data-speakersThe Big Data conference held in Exeter in January was a great success and was attended by around 80 delegates from across the area.

The event looked at how to expand the big data sector in the South West and concluded that the South West could soon become a global leader in the big data sector if the right skills are developed, leading to massive economic benefits for the whole area.

Organised by the Exeter and Heart of Devon Employment and Skills Board, the event was completely interactive and allowed delegates to take part in focused debates inspired by the speakers.

The conference explored the value and challenges of big data for small and medium enterprises, looked at how to identify, recruit, train and retain big data staff and considered how to teach the right skills and attract young people into the field.

Defined as ‘the exponential growth and availability of data’, big data is predicted to become more significant to businesses than the internet. The sector is growing rapidly throughout the world and it is used in diverse spheres, from astrophysics and science, to government and online marketing.

‘Unlocking Big Data – Investing in Human Capital’ featured a selection of high profile speakers, including: the Guardian’s Technology Editor, Charles Arthur; Dr Kim Nilsson; Alex Nicholson, CIO of Plymouth big data company Intelligent Optimisations; the Met Office’s Charles Ewen, CIO and Director of Information Technology; and Chris Garcia CEO of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.

Organised by the Exeter and Heart of Devon Employment and Skills Board, the event was completely interactive and allowed delegates to take part in focused debates inspired by the speakers.  The feedback and outcomes of the discussions are now being analysed.

Mark Shepherd, Chair of Exeter and the Heart of Devon Employment and Skills Board said: “The arrival of the Met Office’s supercomputer has signalled an enormous change for the whole area and the industry as a whole.  Our event was a great success, bringing together people from across the whole region to plan how we can become a global leader in this fast growing industry.”

Dr Kim Nilsson, Director of Pivigo and one of the speakers at the event said: “It was such a pleasure to attend the Big Data event and see the enthusiasm and engagement in the audience. The conversations were eager and constructive, and I see a bright future for the region in terms of planting the seeds of data and analytics innovation.”

Sam Chidley Project Officer – Exeter Science Park and Research & Knowledge Transfer said: “This was a unique idea and I think it will create some great outputs, of which no one else has achieved.”

Chris Garcia, Chief Executive of the Heart of the South West LEP said: “Big Data is set to change the way we do business and it’s essential that we plan ahead to ensure that the Heart of the South West area maximises its opportunities. As part of this, it’s essential that we have more big data champions in businesses and communities which will help the industry to grow.”

Funded by the Skills Funding Agency, the conference was supported by the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Somerset Skills and Learning and the Met Office.