A PLAN to build a £5 million data research centre at Essex University has been finalised.

The Data Research Centre will make data, routinely collected by business and government organisations, accessible to academics to carry out research of national importance.

The Economic and Social Research Council funded project aims to provide evidence to influence government policy.

David Willetts, universities and science minister, said: “The new data research centres will help the UK grasp these opportunities and get ahead in the global race.”

The centre, to be based within the forthcoming £21 million Essex Business School, will be led by Essex University, working with East Anglia and Kent universities.

The university has an abundance of “data scientists” at the UK Data Service and the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, who can use information to explain why we make the decisions we do.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster said: “This is a fantastic initiative for Essex and really helps us position ourselves as number one in the UK and Europe for harvesting data analytics and applying the data in new and exciting ways to support our business partners.”

Project leader Professor Vania Sena, added: “Some companies and local authorities just do not have the knowledge and skills to exploit the vast amount of data they produce as part of their day-to-day activities to their advantage.

“They are sitting on a potential goldmine but often they don’t have the skills and the knowledge to use that data in a smart way.”