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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.

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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Urban Analytics

Artificial Intelligence

LIDA Internship Programme

LIDA is committed to fostering data science talent for public good, and this is why it inaugurated its pioneering Data Scientist Internship Programme in 2016. The Programme satisfies a growing demand for skilled data scientists in industry and the public sector, as well as offering its interns a unique learning experience in a dynamic and multi-disciplinary research environment.

UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in AI for Medical Diagnosis and Care

The CDT AI for Medical Diagnosis and Care is now in its second year. The Centre, the grant for which is based in Computing, has found an excellent home in LIDA, where its students benefit from the opportunity to build a truly interdisciplinary network of highly talented researchers. The focus of the CDT is on AI in cancer care.

Centre for Data Analytics and Society

The ESRC-funded CDT for Data Analytics and Society provides postgraduate research training across the Universities of Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield.

In September 2020, our fourth cohort began their studies remotely. Remote working has presented a number of challenges for our students, including working from different time zones, isolation and lack of access to university resources.

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.

DeCOVID- Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust

In May 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic DATA-CAN – HDRUK Hub for Cancer joined forces with the PIONEER Hub for Acute care to run the DeCovid Project. Set up by Wai Keong Wong at UCLH and Liz Sapey at Birmingham it involved the creation of a high resolution COVID-19 data resource based on Acute Care.

The Alan Turing Institute

During the course of 2019/20 the 24 University of Leeds Turing Fellows embarked on a series of new Turing research projects and activities.

Read more about the new research programme in Urban Analytics, COVID-19 research, new Turing interest groups and collaborative events.

HDR UK Northern Better Care Partnership

The HDR UK Northern ‘Better Care Partnership’ brings together world-class universities, digitally-enabled NHS institutions and academic health science systems. It serves over 16 million people in the North where the rates of poverty, morbidity, premature mortality and poorer clinical outcomes are higher than in other regions. The Partnership will initially focus on three projects towards better care for elderly people living with frailty.

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, Microsoft, Google 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.