EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Geospatial Systems

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering

Abstract

On a daily basis huge amounts of geospatial data and information that record location is created across a wide range of environmental, engineered and social systems. Globally approximately 2 quintillion bytes of data is generated daily which is location based. The economic benefits of geospatial data and information have been widely recognised, with the global geospatial industry predicted to be worth $500bn by 2020. In the UK the potential benefits of 'opening' up geospatial data is estimated by the government to be worth an additional £11bn annually to the economy and led to the announcement of a £80m Geospatial Commission.

However, if the full economic benefits of the geospatial data revolution are to be realised, a new generation of geospatial engineers, scientists and practitioners are required who have the knowledge, technical skills and innovation to transform our understanding of the ever increasingly complex world we inhabit, to deliver highly paid jobs and economic prosperity, coupled with benefits to society.

To seize this opportunity, the Centre for Doctoral Training in Geospatial Systems will deliver technically skilled doctoral graduates equipped with an industry focus, to work across a diverse range of applications including infrastructure systems, smart cities, urban-infrastructure resilience, energy systems, spatial mobility, structural monitoring, spatial planning, public health and social inclusion. Doctoral graduates will be trained in five core integrated geospatial themes:

Spatial data capture and interpretation: modern spatial data capture and monitoring approaches, including Earth observation satellite image data, UAVs and drone data, and spatial sensor networks; spatial data informs us on the current status and changes taking place in different environments (e.g., river catchments and cities).

Statistical and mathematical methods: innovative mathematical approaches and statistical techniques, such as predictive analytics, required to alyse and interpret huge volumes of geospatial data; these allow us to recognise and quantify within large volumes of data important locations and relationships.

Big Data spatial analytics: cutting edge computational skills required for geospatial data analysis and modelling, including databases, cloud computing, pattern recognition and machine learning; modern computing approaches are the only way that vast volumes of location data can be analysed.

Spatial modelling and simulation: to design and implement geospatial simulation models for predictive purposes; predictive spatial models allow us to understand where and when investment, interventions and actions are required in the future.

Visualisation and decision support: will train students in modern methods of spatial data visualisation such as virtual and augmented reality, and develop the skills on how to deliver and present the outputs of geospatial data analysis and modelling; skills required to ensure that objective decisions and choices are made using geospatial data and information.

The advanced training received by students will be employed within interdisciplinary PhD research projects co-designed with 40 partners ranging from government agencies, international engineering consultants, infrastructure operators and utility companies, and geospatial technology companies; organisations that are ideally positioned to leverage of the Big Data, Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies that are predicted to be the key to "accelerating geospatial industry growth" into the future.

Throughout their training and research, students will benefit from cohort-based activities focused on group-working and industry interaction around innovation and entrepreneurship to ensure that our outstanding researchers are able to deliver innovation for economic prosperity across the spectrum of the geospatial industry and applied user sectors.

Planned Impact

We have identified the potential impact of the CDT in consultation with 44 partner organisations, ensuring we are meeting the needs of potential beneficiaries. The impacts that we will develop robust pathways to achieve include:

Economic:
Our graduates will be a key pool of knowledge and skills to deliver the annual £11bn of economic benefit to the UK from 'opening-up' geospatial data. Their advanced skills in a rapidly changing technological field will help the UK geospatial industry realise the predicted global annual growth of 13.8% and transform the use of geospatial data and technology in smart cities, urban-infrastructure resilience, energy systems and structural monitoring.
Through continuous two-way engagement with our partners we will shape and deliver industry relevant PhD projects that apply students' unique training. Ongoing knowledge exchange with industry will be facilitated through regular interaction with the centre, the Industrial Advisory Board and partner participation at the Innovation Festival, CDT Assembly and Challenge Week events. We will work with the recently announced £80m Geospatial Commission to ensure the translation of new methods, techniques and technology to the broadest possible user base; using our partnerships with professional bodies to recognise the opportunities and challenges to realising the economic benefits of geospatial data.
SME and start-ups are will be major drivers of global geospatial industry growth. Innovation and entrepreneurial training will position our graduates to act as a catalyst of the growth needed in the UK to remain internationally competitive. Working with Satellite and Digital Catapults, and the £30million National Innovation Centre for Data, we will foster a 'full-circle' engagement with SME's and start-ups; to ensure our graduates understand the drivers for innovation, facilitate co-production and ensure the timely adoption of academic driven advances for economic growth.

Societal:
We have recognd the significant role geospatial data will play in providing the evidence for improved planning and response to significant global societal problems. The interdisciplinary PhD research conducted within the CDT will provide new insight and understanding in climate impacts and adaption, sustainable cities, and healthy living and aging. Our graduates will engage with key international and national organisations (e.g., Cities Resilience Programme of the World Bank, UK National Infrastructure Commission) to ensure the widest adoption of their research.

Academic:
Our graduates will form the next generation of geospatial scientists and engineers vital for interdisciplinary research at the engineering-societal-environment nexus. Their combined skills in geospatial technology and methods, along with advanced mathematical, statistical and computing skills, will provide the UK with a unique resource pool of academic leaders. The research produced by the centre, sustained and embedded by the skilled workforce it creates, will help address the Grand Challenges of the UK Industrial Strategy; AI and the Data Driven Economy, Future Mobility and an Aging Society.

To maximize academic outreach we will provide a Geospatial Systems Resource Portal that will allow researchers to access the new techniques and methods developed. Software and related methods will be open source, and tutorials and training guides will be developed as a matter of routine. We will organise CPD courses based on our unique integrated training in Geospatial Systems, open to cohorts from other CDTs within the digital economy space. We will foster cross-UKRI translation and learning by working with related CDTs; the ESRC CDT in Data Analytics and Society and NERC CDT in Data, Risks and Environmental Analytical Methods. Via our 9 international research partners our unique training approach and strong emphasis on interdisciplinary research will become internationally impactful.

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