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Big-data research spurs industrial development

14 December 2012

A group specialising in big-data analytics is being assembled in Norway. The centre for Information Access Disruptions (iAD) is at the core of this activity.

From left: Professor Dag Johansen, Centre Director Bjørn Olstad, Professor Pål Halvorsen and Research Programme Manager Odd Petter Slyngstad (photo: Håvard Simonsen)
From left: Professor Dag Johansen, Centre Director Bjørn Olstad, Professor Pål Halvorsen and Research Programme Manager Odd Petter Slyngstad (photo: Håvard Simonsen)

It is a great credit to Norwegian IT research that Microsoft is moving 50 positions from the US to Norway. The draw is the iAD and its extensive expertise in big data – currently one of the hottest areas of research.

The amount of data being produced around the world is increasing at an explosive rate, and research on how to accommodate and retrieve information from such vast amounts of data is in high demand.

“We have seen that many groups are jockeying for a position in this area," saya Bjørn Olstad, Centre Director of the iAD and CTO of Microsoft Development Center Norway (MDCN). With significant help from the Research Council of Norway, we have succeeded in building up a unique pool of expertise in Norway over the past seven years. This is one of the main reasons why Microsoft has decided to invest here.” 

The iAD is one of 21 centres granted status as a Centre for Research-based Innovation (SFI) by the Research Council of Norway. The MDCN is the host institution, and partners comprise the University of Tromsø (UiT), University of Oslo (UiO), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim and BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo. The centre’s research focuses on the next generation of search engines and how to retrieve user-friendly information from large and complex sets of data.

A cluster in Tromsø
In the short term, fifty positions are to be moved from Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington to Norway. Thirty of these will be relocated to UiO, where the iAD is working towards defining and developing new user experiences within commercial searches. The remaining 20 will be situated in Tromsø where activity will focus on accessing and analysing large amounts of data.

In the longer term, Microsoft would like to add 20 more employees to the Tromsø office in addition to the 30 already working there, and the 20 new positions that are soon being relocated from Redmond, Washington. Combined with personnel working in this area at UiT, this will bring the total size of the research community in Tromsø up to close to 100 people.

“There has been a deliberate effort to organise the division of labour according to a cluster model. Such a large group has the potential to come up with many exciting developments together that could pave the way for other activities to come,” says Dr Olstad.

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