Microsoft and Singapore’s NUS in data science pact
By Benjamin Cher May 27, 2016
- To collaborate on data science research, with Microsoft providing curriculum and tools
- NUS launches new NUS Institute for Data Science, part of Smart Nation Research Cluster
SINGAPORE’S Smart Nation Initiative received a boost with the twin announcement of a new data science institute and the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Microsoft Corp on data science research.
“For us [Microsoft], we want to empower every individual and organisation to achieve more,” said Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella (pic above), who on the Singapore leg of his Asia Pacific tour witnessed the signing of the MoU at NUS.
“We care deeply about how digital technology empowers the individual, and how it empowers individuals to build institutions that drive economic growth and societal change,” he said.
“… there is no better institution to start with than NUS,” he said in his speech after the signing of the MoU.
Under the MoU, Microsoft will provide NUS access to its data science and big data curriculum, including over 200 hours of content, consultancy and support from Microsoft technical experts and data scientists, and also grants for students to access the Cortana Intelligence suite.
The Cortana Intelligence Suite should not be confused with the Cortana digital assistant that consumers are aware of, noted Microsoft Asia Pacific public sector general manager Vivek Puthucode.
“The Cortana Intelligence Suite is … a big data analytics platform that Microsoft provides,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) on the sidelines of the event.
“What Microsoft provides is access to that analytics platform, along with the content and curriculum assigned to this MoU ….
“When the platform becomes usable, they [NUS students] will be able to model and translate data for more precise recommendations, to draw more precise models or solutions to solve problems,” he added.
As for the actual curriculum itself, Vivek claimed that it will teach the foundational skills necessary for real-world applications.
“The curriculum will teach deep analytical capabilities, how to manage data, how to interact with data.
“When you infuse that with real-life work experience, with the internships and joint research that are also part of the MoU, students will have the opportunity to take what they learn and apply it to a problem.
“We also have other regular programmes with our independent software vendors who are on the lookout for talent for internship opportunities, so it’s not just Microsoft, but Microsoft’s broader partner ecosystem,” he added.
This partnership between NUS and Microsoft will contribute to Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, according to NUS president Prof Tan Chorh Chuan.
“This will inject a powerful new impetus to our drive to nurture a deep pool of human talent with the requisite skills in data science and analytics … and contribute to innovation and solutions across a diverse range of sectors,” Tan said in his speech at the data science institute launch (see below).
“In addition, this partnership will contribute significantly to Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative … a Singapore transformed and differentiated by next-generation technologies, such as powerful sensor networks coupled with big data analytics,” he added.
The data science institute
Tan said the new NUS Institute for Data Science (IDS) would bring together strengths in data science and analytics.
“IDS will coordinate and support data science research initiatives across NUS, it will focus on advancing basic research and methodological developments, and their novel application in verticals such as healthcare, education and smart systems,” he said.
“IDS will be a key part of the broader NUS Smart Nation Research Cluster, together with the National Cybersecurity Lab being set up in NUS, our powerful operations research group, and a number of new research centres and collaboration,” he added.
Tan also said there will be announcements about the other research centres later in the year.
NUS is investing S$12 million (US$8.7 million) over five years into IDS. There will be more than 20 faculty members from various disciplines involved in IDS’ research at the start.
The institute is expected to have about 100 researchers and staff working on a broad spectrum of data science projects. IDS will also provide a total of 50 scholarships over five years to train PhD students in data science and analytics.
IDS is currently exploring two potential research thrusts. The first is to develop technologies to identify, model and predict the flow of talent across geographical regions over time, while the second is to focus on empowering Internet users to search with confidence, allowing them to make more informed decisions.
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