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UK universities to collaborate with IBM on research projects

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The University of Southampton and Imperial College London have announced partnerships with IBM to offer students and staff cognitive computing education with unprecedented access to IBM's Watson technology and experts.

Imperial College London will offer new courses to provide students with opportunities for hands-on learning as they work to develop cognitive computing solutions to address business and societal challenges. The partnership extends cognitive systems activities in Imperial’s department of computing as well as in other college departments already involved in related interdisciplinary research.

The University of Southampton will collaborate with IBM Watson on exciting ground-breaking interdisciplinary PhD research projects across a wide range of sectors from marine and maritime to computer science, computational chemistry and ground-breaking medical research.

Southampton students will also engage with Watson through a new Cognitive Computing module as part of its curriculum innovation programme, which will initially be available to more than 150 undergraduate and master’s students across all disciplines.

According to the government's recent information economy strategy report, business sectors across the economy are being transformed by data, analytics and modelling; and these will bring massive opportunities if government, industry and academia work together. However one of the key dependencies is to create a highly skilled digital workforce.

Data from the Tech Partnership shows that 120,000 new entrants a year are required to fill specialist technology job roles in the UK and that the industry delivers an annual economic contribution of £84 billion or six per cent of the total UK economy.

Watson represents a new era of computing based on its ability to interact in natural language, process vast amounts of disparate forms of big data, and learn from each interaction. The collaborations between IBM and the universities aim to help nurture the next generation of innovators needed.

David Gann, vice president (development and innovation) at Imperial College London, said: 'As a leader in education and research in cognitive computing, Imperial College London aims to prepare industry-ready students to harness this combination of science and technology and create innovative products and services.

'It is crucial for our students to be able to work with the most cutting-edge systems and technologies, and we are truly excited about this partnership with IBM, which will enable this through a multidisciplinary and systematic approach. Our department of computing already collaborates closely with IBM in areas related to security, network management and intelligence services. This new initiative takes our strategic alliance to a new level. Students and researchers will benefit greatly from access to the latest generation of capabilities from IBM.'

'As a university that prides itself on being at the forefront of cutting edge technological and educational developments, the introduction of Watson into our curricular and extra-curricular activities is a natural step as we seek to transform the experience and resources available to our students and staff,' said Russell Bentley, assistant pro-vice-chancellor (education) at the University of Southampton.

'In particular, Watson will be a tremendous asset to participants on our innovative Curriculum Innovation programme, which encourages students from across disciplines and subject to come together to develop new skills.'