Microsoft accelerates data science at The Alan Turing Institute with $5m in cloud computing credits

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By Kenji Takeda, Director, Azure for Research, Microsoft Research

Microsoft is excited to be empowering researchers at The Alan Turing Institute to achieve more by awarding $5 million in Microsoft Azure cloud computing credits.

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The Turing is the U.K.’s national center for data science, with its headquarters at the British Library in London. It is a joint venture founded by the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, University College London and Warwick and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

“More than 100 research staff — ranging from computer scientists, engineers and experts in machine learning to statisticians, mathematicians and social scientists — will soon begin work at The Alan Turing Institute with the mission to advance the world-changing potential of data science,” said Andrew Blake, the Institute’s Director.

“Azure cloud services will provide our data scientists with an easily accessible platform where they can prototype ideas with a fast turnaround of results, complementing local computing facilities available in the institute’s five founding universities, and national resources such as the supercomputer ARCHER supported by EPSRC,” Blake added. “We are delighted that Microsoft is enabling access to Azure cloud services and supporting this crucial element of our research infrastructure.”

Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of the Data Group at Microsoft, commented: “We are proud to be working closely with The Alan Turing Institute to show how AI, machine learning and data science can be applied in novel ways to real-world problems. We are excited to be enabling researchers to do their best work by providing access to the state-of-the-art capabilities in Microsoft Azure.”

Jeannette M. Wing, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research, added: “The Alan Turing Institute is a unique place where researchers from the U.K.’s top universities come together to push the boundaries of data science. This partnership with The Alan Turing Institute is a prime example of how Microsoft is investing in the global data science research ecosystem, and we look forward to seeing the results of this collaboration.”

Turing Research Fellow Chris Russell anticipates that Microsoft Azure will prove especially useful in data science research. “We often spend a lot of time thinking and coding, and then we have a short window where we want to use a lot of computation power to immediately test our ideas, before we go back to thinking again,” Russell said. “This kind of burst in the usage of computers is a great match for the cloud where you can scale up your computational resources quickly and easily.”

Personally, I am honored to be joining The Alan Turing Institute as a Visiting Industry Fellow, to work directly with the researchers there. We will be training every researcher at the Turing in the latest approaches to data science, encouraging them to employ cloud-first thinking about their problems through access to near-infinite computing and data processing capabilities. Our Azure for Research program is seeding hundreds of academic projects in the cloud, enabling better and more reproducible data-intensive research around the world. Particularly exciting is how Microsoft Azure’s unique features are a perfect match for data science researchers, such as true high-performance computing GPUs for deep learning, Cortana Intelligence Suite (Microsoft’s data and analytics platform) with Azure Machine Learning, Jupiter Notebooks with R and Python, Azure Data Lake and Spark on HDInsight.

Suzy Moat, a Faculty Fellow at The Alan Turing Institute and Associate Professor of Behavioral Science at Warwick Business School, explained: “Our everyday use of the internet generates vast quantities of data. In my research, I’m interested in understanding whether such data can help us measure and even predict human behavior in the real world. Excellent access to cloud computing services will be of immense use in helping us turn these huge online datasets into insights that we hope will be of value to scientists and policymakers alike.”

We look forward to telling you more about the exciting cloud-first research we’re helping to enable at The Alan Turing Institute in coming months.

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