Annual review 2019/2020

LIDA: Our year in review 2019/20

On 11th July, LIDA celebrated 5 years as a physical institute since opening its doors in 2015.  It’s a shame that there won’t have been many people in the building to mark the occasion, and we are sure that many of you will be looking forward along with us to that time when we can begin to assemble once more as a community.  Notwithstanding the considerable inconvenience of our current working situation, it is pleasing to reflect that the pandemic has had little or no effect in diluting the vibrancy of LIDA’s research, or the continued steady growth in our portfolio.  We are confident that this will be clear to all of our readers from the contents of this Annual Review. 

We are especially gratified by the inclusion of case studies reflecting joint work with our research partners in Artificial Intelligence and Immersive Technologies.  AI continues to represent a huge opportunity which is intimately connected to the science and analytics of data, as David Hogg explains in his contribution to this report.  It is hard to see AI as anything but a lynchpin of future growth in the economy and society, and in the pursuit of science and academic innovation, in the next twenty years.  LIDA is committed to doing all that we can to foster increased capacity and capability for the University and its partners in this key domain.  The last year has also seen the launch of the Centre for Immersive Technology (CfIT) as a new unit within the University, with widespread strategic support for the emergence of an outstanding and distinctive contribution into both research and teaching across the institution.  

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Work with us

We believe in innovation through collaboration. During 2019/20 we worked closely with a wide range of data partners in the public, private and third sectors to ensure the Institute’s academic expertise is channelled towards addressing real-world challenges.

LIDA is a trusted partner that offers secure data services, resources and expertise which can help you to derive additional value from the data you hold and further develop your internal data analytics capability.


LIDA Strategy

LIDA’s vision for the next five years is to advance knowledge and improve well-being and prosperity through internationally outstanding research and education in interdisciplinary data science and artificial intelligence. Research domains that will be of strategic importance to LIDA over this period will include, but not be limited to urban analytics, health data, and AI. LIDA will also build new educational programmes aligned to these domains, in partnership with and through the Schools and Faculties at the University of Leeds, to train of the data scientists of tomorrow.

Click here to view the LIDA Strategy


Research and Innovation

In a tumultuous year LIDA researchers can be proud of how they have responded to the crisis, acting quickly to meet the emerging needs of our partners while simultaneously juggling challenging home lives. Across our three programmes of research – in Urban Analytics, Health, and Artificial Intelligence – we have seen impactful contributions to alleviating the crisis, that have ultimately benefited our response to the pandemic.

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Professor Chris Gale: Health data for societal benefit

Our work at LIDA, our cross-faculty institute, brings together over 150 researchers and data scientists with the remit of driving change through data. Data has always been at the heart of innovation, and right now there is great excitement and drive to use data across all domains of society for the benefit of populations. At LIDA we understand this and we want to be part of it. We bring academic, teaching, research and academic experts together in an open plan infrastructure that allows staff and students with a common purpose to work together and use data and contemporary analytical techniques for the benefit of society 



Heart attacks – rapid data during the Covid-19 pandemic to inform policy, improve care and save lives 

Researchers at LIDA have been at the forefront of an academic collaboration to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on emergency cardiac services, morbidity and mortality rates.  



DATA-CAN – harnessing, enhancing and using cancer datasets for researchand improved patient outcomes 

One in two people will get cancer during their lifetime, and every year, almost 400,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed in the UK. Cancer costs the NHS £7 billion annually. This year, researchers at the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) looked at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on cancer services and how health services can respond to help minimise the impact on patients.  



Transforming care for older people through health data research

HDR UK North is an innovative data initiative in the north of England that will benefit patients across the UK and help address some of the most challenging health issues facing patients and the NHS. In a major partnership spanning the Universities of Leeds, Liverpool, Lancaster, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield, the initiative aims to improve the care and services for patients by supporting the better use of data and analytical tools.


Urban Analytics

Professor Mark Birkin: The huge value of human behaviour data 

As Professor of Spatial Analysis and Policy in the School of Geography, Co-Director of the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics and Director of the ESRC Consumer Data Research CentreI lead a number of teams that are focussed on creating a bridge between academic research in social science and consumer-facing organisations who capture the richest data about social processes. 



Using data science to generate better policies to improve people’s lives in Holme Wood and beyond

The Bradford area of Holme Wood has been a focus for action and investment for many years, but ‘top down’ interventions to improve life for residents haven’t succeeded. Some of the world’s leading data scientists at LIDA have formed multi-disciplinary groups working with the community and Local Authority to see how data science can aid collective understanding of a place like Holme Wood. The data scientists are exploring how they can work with the community and policymakers to use data to generate better interventions and policies to improve people’s lives 


Co-producing world-leading research with young people to improve environment, education and health outcomes in Bradford and beyond

Digital Makers, a new programme led by the Bradford Institute for Health Research (BIHR) in partnership with researchers at LIDA and the Centre for Immersive Technologies at the University of Leeds with colleagues at the University of Bradford, is combining data science, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality to generate learning of national and international importance in digital education. 


A collaboration to support the work of pandemic modelling, influencing policy and saving lives 

The Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic (RAMP) initiative was set up by The Royal Society (LINK) to mobilise the UK’s wider scientific modelling community and bring a wide range of expertise from a various different disciplines across academia and the private sector to support the work of the pandemic modelling.  


Artificial Intelligence

Professor David Hogg: The transformational power of AI

LIDA is the cross-faculty institute of the University which deals with data science and artificial intelligence (AI)AI is concerned with replicating human intelligence in a machine, and machine learning works by using data. So there’s a real congruence between these two areas. LIDA is a great example of this kind of collaboration at the University. It’s a real melting pot of different people and cross-faculty collaborations for research but also for benefits to everyday life. 



Using machine learning for nowcasting to improve the safety and efficiency of aviation

With an increasing number of aircraft passing through our skies every day, any hazardous weather is extremely disruptive. This work, by Senior Met Office Scientist, Claire Bartholomew as part of her PhD at the University of Leeds, looks at how we can improve current Met Office data with machine learning to look at short-term forecasting and improve the safety and efficiency of aviation. 


Unsupervised human activity analysis for intelligent mobile robots

To be successful at operating and collaborating with humans in daily life, intelligent mobile robots need to be able to learn about human movements, and gain understanding from an observed scene. This work shows how intelligent mobile robots can observe and then understand human activities as patterns and how this can be scaled for continual learning.  



Using machine learning in a completely new way to improve climate models 

Research facilitated by LIDA has created a new way to understand one of the most uncertain parts of our current climate models. Using unsupervised machine learning in a never-beendone before approach, the work is the first unsupervised neural network model which autonomously discovers cloud organization regimes in satellite images. This has vitally important implications for weather predictions and climate models.  


Education and Training

The current academic year has started like no other.  There has been a huge effort by the LIDA community to transition the existing education and training portfolio from its thriving campus norm to online delivery.  But what preceded this was a very successful 2019/20.

The 2019/20 academic year saw a growth across all core areas of activity within the LIDA education and training portfolio, these included taught postgraduate programmes and student numbers, short course provision, early career seminars and the ongoing development of future initiatives.

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Research Technology

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions, and the REF outcomes affect universities’ reputations and about £2 billion per year of research funding. LIDA was established in 2014, so this report I reflect on the ways in which LIDA’s research technology has underpinned the University’s data analytics research in the REF2021 period (1/8/13 – 31/7/20).

Research technology comprises hardware, software and wetware. In terms of hardware, LIDA provides the University’s only ISO27001-accredited IT platform (the Integrated Research Campus; IRC), which is mandated by some data providers we work with, and without which some 57 research projects could not have taken place. Included within those are eight projects where researchers use the IRC within LIDA’s three physical Safe Rooms to conduct research with Identifiable sensitive personal data, data with high commercial/research sensitivity, or other high-risk data.

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We believe in innovation through collaboration. During 2019/20 we worked closely with a wide range of data partners in the public, private and third sectors to ensure the Institute’s academic expertise is channelled towards addressing real-world challenges.

Below are some of the highlights from 2019/2020.


DATA-CAN: The Health Data Research UK Hub for Cancer

The Health Data Research UK Hub for Cancer has been in existence for a year. The Chief Data Officer – Monica Jones and Clinical Lead – Professor Geoff Hall are both members of the LIDA Senior Management Team. DATA CAN is a collaboration between UCL Partners, University of Leeds, Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust, Queens University Belfast, Genomics England and IQVIA. We are funded by Health Data Research UK to enable UK health data access for research. As one of seven Health Data Research Hubs our focus is on cancer and we will enable and expand legitimate access to UK cancer data for research, return value to patients and NHS via free data access and value share. In addition, we have established a sustainable national organisation that can help research and care, and establish patient leadership in cancer data access. 



The Emergent Alliance is a not-for-profit collaboration of large organisations, small businesses, institutes and individuals who share knowledge, data and skills to inform decision making on regional and global economic challenges related to COVID-19.

LIDA worked alongside consortium-leader Rolls-Royce to develop the concept and is one of a small group of founding members, alongside IBM, MicrosoftGoogle Cloud and others.  As the lead academic institution within the Alliance LIDA provide members with secure infrastructure, scientific expertise and access to global academic research networks