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BigDataSummit: Oxford University and Emirates launch data science lab

4/11/2015 by Sharon Shahzad


Oxford University and airline Emirates have teamed up to create a data science lab in an effort to increase the understanding of big data sets and how businesses can derive more value from their use.

The Oxford-Emirates Data Science Lab will be located at the Oxford Centre for Information, and will see staff from Emirates seconded to the university to work alongside scientists from several departments.

Professor Peter Grindrod at Oxford University told V3 that working in this way, using real data from Emirates' own databases, made good sense as the university has access to some of the best minds on the planet to help draw insights from this type of information.

“What we want to do is try and act as a partner for global companies by drawing in the best people from maths, statistics, engineering, computer science and social sciences, who can all offer something to say about customer data,” he said.

Grindrod explained that the partnership should help Emirates make more use of its data to improve performance, as has been seen in other sectors, notably retail.

“When companies like Emirates want to transform, it can only be done with data, lots of data. If you don’t have data you can’t do this, because you need insights to transform your business,” he said.

“For example, Tesco was a supply-centric company but that all changed with Clubcard and it became a customer-centric company. You can apply this same idea to airlines. They ultimately need to become customer-centric so they understand what people want, when and why, to improve performance.”

Grindrod added that the university is seeking other global organisations to work with in a similar way as the lab looks to expand the scope of data analytics and big data learning.

“We’re talking to a number of global companies that see data science as something that could be transformative across whole sectors, and they have the ambition to lead on this,” he explained.

"It’s clear to us that if we invent things [for data insights] they will rush to deploy them.”

Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates, agreed, explaining that better use of data is key to the airline's growth and success in the future.

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