Thursday, December 3, 2020

East Midlands Chamber and DMU awarded £121k for AI research to create regional ‘data powerhouse’

Artificial intelligence will be used in an innovative new project to build the clearest and most comprehensive picture yet of business in the East Midlands.

East Midlands Chamber and De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have been awarded £121,000 Government funding to create a new Regional Business Intelligence Unit, which aims to improve competitiveness and productivity across the region, highlight business strengths and ultimately, win more investment.

They are partners in a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), a type of project in which academics and researchers work alongside businesses. It is funded by Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), which supports UK research and innovation programmes.

DMU is home to experts in enterprise, economics, business intelligence and AI, and will combine those strengths to identify new opportunities in the digital economy and help the Chamber create a data powerhouse that will raise the profile of the region as a great place to do business.

By developing and enhancing economic and business intelligence for enterprise, the East Midlands will be able to inform policymakers such as Government agencies, local enterprise partnerships, All-Party Parliamentary Group of East Midlands MPs, local authorities and the East Midlands Development Corporation, as well as individual businesses and communities.

Professor David Rae, director of DMU’s Centre for Enterprise and Innovation, said: “This will give us better data, better intelligence and lead to better decision-making for the region as a whole.

“We know the East Midlands voice is less strong than other regions. Having the Chamber as the business partner in this, with its networks across the three counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, will ensure we can work together at a regional level and create a comprehensive business intelligence unit.

“This should contribute to revitalising the region’s economy after the shock from the pandemic and the possible business impact of Brexit.”

It’s hoped the Regional Business Intelligence Unit will enable the East Midlands to challenge other regions such as Manchester and Leeds, which have long-established strong unified voices with key influencers and have attracted investment and support from major funders, Government ministers and multinational companies.

It will also aim to work with the West Midlands through the Midlands Engine Research Observatory.

The DMU team is made up of Prof Rae and Professor Ed Cartwright, of Leicester Castle Business School, and artificial intelligence expert Dr Mario Gongora, of the Institute of Intelligence.

A postgraduate research associate will be appointed to work solely on the project based at the Chamber’s offices.

AI and machine learning will be crucial to the project, analysing a wealth of data to spot patterns, look for opportunities and suggest improvements – whether it is making supply chains more effective, boosting environmental performance or optimising business competitiveness.

An example may be analysing traffic congestion data to plan the most efficient road delivery route.

Actionable insights will be pulled out and delivered as recommendations to businesses. A business support programme will also be developed during the KTP.

Scott Knowles, Chief Executive of East Midlands Chamber, has long advocated for the region to have a more united approach. He said: “While the East Midlands is a partner in the Midlands Engine Research Observatory, it also needs to develop its own capacity for business intelligence which can inform policymakers.

“This is a very exciting project to be involved with and we believe the insights it will produce could be extremely useful for informing those making decisions at the highest levels.”

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