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Institute for Web Science partnership announced

Published: 
22 March 2010
Professor Nigel Shadbolt
Will lead the Institute for Web Science with Sir Tim Berners-Lee

The University of Southampton and the University of Oxford have agreed to partner in the establishment of a joint Institute for Web Science.

The Institute, which was announced by the Prime Minister today (22 March), will ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of developments in the World Wide Web, and understands, anticipates and fully exploits the economic potential that emerges from the evolution of the Web.

Co-hosted by the Universities of Southampton and Oxford, and created through a £30 million grant provided through the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, the Institute will build on the foundations of existing, complementary strengths at the two universities, and the significant investment made by both universities in Web Science and its societal and governmental implications. It will exploit the track record of both host institutions of engaging with business to commercialise research, and of generating and nurturing "spin out" start-up companies.

Professor Nigel Shadbolt of the University of Southampton, who will lead the Institute with Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, commented: "The Web is one of the most disruptive and transformative innovations we have ever witnessed. We must understand the forces that have shaped it, anticipate its evolution and determine its future social and economic impact. But we must also research a next generation of the Web. The announcement today will allow us to do this in the UK and to ensure that we remain pioneers and world class in this critical area."

He went on to say: "The Institute for Web Science will also act as a bridge between research and business, helping commercialise these new technologies. It will also help Government stimulate demand through procurement."

Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: "The next generation of Web technologies is going to shape the world in even more dramatic ways. The University of Oxford is at the forefront of research into the societal implications of the Internet. It is important and appropriate that Oxford should be involved in initiatives that seek to tap into the exciting future possibilities and potential of the Web."

The Institute for Web Science will act as a hub for collaboration between the hosting institutions and other universities in the UK and the related business communities. It will have a critical mass sufficient to form a world-leading capability in the next generation Web.

The Institute will build on the existing reputation of the two universities and their links to centres overseas to attract funding and talent from around the world.

Professor Don Nutbeam, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton, commented: "I am delighted that Southampton will play such a fundamental role in shaping the next-generation technologies and capabilities of the World Wide Web. I congratulate Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt for their recent work which has demonstrated the transformational power of the Web in delivering data and information which is of real value.

"This new role will build on Southampton's established world-class research and expertise in Web Science. We now look forward to working with universities and business around the world as we take this research initiative forward."

Notes for editors

  • The hosting of the Institute at the Universities of Oxford and Southampton is subject to the signing of contracts.

  • Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, graduate of the University of Oxford and visiting professor at the University of Southampton, and Professor Nigel Shadbolt of the University of Southampton have agreed to lead the Institute for Web Science, and with the support of the Vice-Chancellors of Southampton and Oxford will develop the structure and governance arrangements for the Institute. This cluster will be a collaborative project, which they hope other universities and private sector companies will join over time.

  • The Institute will combine existing world-class fundamental research expertise with newly created experimental facilities at Southampton and Oxford that will deliver:

    * Faster and better technology and knowledge transfer to and for the benefit of the economy and society.
    * A stronger competitive position for the UK as a major, high value innovation leader in the development and exploitation of the Web.
    * High value professional development and an increase in the number of well qualified engineers, computer scientists, web developers and entrepreneurs.
    * Two complementary hubs for research, development and business partnerships that support emergent industries that draw from the advances of Web Science and the next generation of the Web.
    * Leadership in a range of research areas covering the social, economic, legal, industrial, engineering, technical and ethical issues of the Internet, as it affects governance and democracy, science and learning, everyday life, and the shaping of the Web.
    * Examination of the interaction between the Web and Web Science and the most pressing problems facing humanity over the coming century.

  • The contribution from the University of Southampton will be:
    * Research leadership and expertise in a wide range of computer science and software engineering developments as they relate to the Web, especially semantic technologies and their exploitation.
    * The existing Doctoral Training Centre in Web Science that integrates the information economy and social sciences into a technological context, and will be graduating a next generation of Web developers, entrepreneurs and researchers.
    * The University also houses the Web Science Trust that seeks to help coordinate Web Science research internationally and encourage the development of curricula in this new emerging interdisciplinary area.

    The contribution from the University of Oxford will be:
    * Research leadership and expertise in how people use the internet and Web and the social and economic costs of digital inclusion - in particular research by the Oxford Internet Institute.
    * The Oxford Internet Institute's research and expertise in analysing the behaviour of government, business and citizens on the web, thereby enabling the design of successful policy intervention.
    * The James Martin 21st Century School, an interdisciplinary school which fosters innovative thinking and collaborative activity to harvest new opportunities of the 21st century, including research that provides new approaches to understanding technological and social change.

  • Uniquely, the Institute will foster a community of activist developers who use the next generation of Web standards in a practical context and encourage their adoption in mainstream open source tools. To achieve this, the new Institute will focus on the Semantic Web and linked data technologies. It will also look at the wider discipline of "Web Science" that creates the ecosystem needed for semantic technologies to be deployed and used effectively. It will have a Web Science orientation where the technology is understood in terms of a wider interplay with societal, economic, legal and other drivers.

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