Data and a world of opportunities for businesses and people

The National Innovation Centre for Data (NICD) is based at Newcastle Helix. They work to address the shortage of data analytics skills in the UK. They engage with organisations to help them gain insight from their data, allowing them to optimise outputs and diversify. We talk to Steve Caughey, Director at NICD about why Newcastle is a place for business, the role they play in our smart and connected eco-system and in the future of our economy.

What makes Newcastle so smart?

Newcastle was the UK’s digital city for 2019-20, and there are many reasons why this is the case. Newcastle University has a great focus on the use of data within the city, and across its institutions; it has a strong focus on research. NICD is based in the city and we are a facility which helps leading brands across the UK to make the best use of their data. We are located on Newcastle Helix alongside the Urban Observatory, which helps businesses and the public sector to build a evidence based for new products, services and investments.This is the largest set of publicly available real time urban data in the UK. The health service, local authorities, and business organisations within the region are all very keen on working out how they can exploit data to drive productivity and innovation.

Why should businesses choose Newcastle as a base for their business?

One of the things that the COVID crisis has highlighted that people can work in an agile and flexible way from home. If you’re running a business that wants to build a high-tech or digital centre, particularly focused on data, why would you base that in the South East where houses prices are expensive and the cost of living is high? Why wouldn’t you place teams in the middle of an exciting ecosystem with exceptional talent, higher retention rates and an unrivaled quality of life? If you’re running an organisation and want to build data capability, the best place to build it right now is in Newcastle.

What role does NICD play in our city’s offer as a smart and connected city?

Many organisations feel they’re drowning in data; they’ve got huge amounts of intelligence coming into the organisation, they just need data science skills to help them understand how to use it to improve processes and create innovative new products and services for their customer base. They are frustrated by the fact they don’t have the skills in-house and NICD is designed to help organisations work on projects, which are intended to solve a problem, but in doing so, deliver new skills into the organisation to help them boost their data analytics capability. This can often lead to expansions and the development of new teams, that in turn create new jobs for our city’s talent.

Newcastle Helix has a vision to help people live smarter and heathier lives. How does NICD contribute to this vision?

Data is vitality important not only for economics, but it can support health and wellbeing. Making smart decisions, whether to help the public better understand the risks and rewards of healthy behaviour, or to help health services understand where spend is having an impact, are all things that require the analysis of data. You can’t really intervene successfully in a society, whether for health, social or economic purposes without really understanding what impact those interventions are having, and that’s where data and NICD can help.

What role will NICD play in the future of our economy?

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of data in a crisis. For example, NICD delivered a series of events to share knowledge and expertise on how data can support the current and lasting effects of COVID-19. We have also been working with the public sector to explore data sharing across the region and how it can help prepare and plan for a crisis, ensuring effective responses to similar global and societal issues in the future. This will make us more competitive as a city and will also support businesses and cities to prepare and protect our economy.

We work closely with business to look how the effective use of data can lead to leaner processes, increased efficiencies, and the creation of new data science roles, meaning they can be more competitive. New products and services are informed by data which all contribute to the growth of our economy and the future of our city.

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