LIDA joins powerful new COVID-19 data alliance


Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) is providing a powerful new COVID-19 data alliance with secure infrastructure, scientific expertise and access to global academic research networks.

LIDA, based at the University of Leeds, has worked alongside consortium leader Rolls-Royce to develop the concept and is a founding member of Emer2gent - a new alliance of data analytics experts challenged with finding new, faster ways of supporting the response to COVID-19 and the subsequent global recovery.

Other founding alliance members are IBM, Google Cloud, The Data City, Truata and ODI Leeds. Co-ordinated by innovation specialists Whitespace, they bring key elements of open innovation, data publication, licensing, privacy, security, data analytics capability and collaborative infrastructure to kick off Emer2gent's early work and grow its membership.

Emer2gent will combine traditional economic, business, travel and retail data sets with behaviour and sentiment data to provide new insights into – and practical applications to support – the global recovery from COVID-19.

This work will be done with a sharp focus on privacy and security, using industry best practices for data sharing and robust governance.

As part of LIDA’s involvement in Emer2gent, researchers will have the opportunity to access data using collaborative platforms established by the Consumer Data Research Centre.

The academic community will be encouraged to articulate and engage in projects to help understand the changes we are seeing in human activity and social behaviour as a result of COVID-19.

Emer2gent models will help get people and businesses back to work as soon as possible by identifying lead indicators of economic recovery cycles.

Businesses small and large around the world, as well as governments, can use these insights to build the confidence they need to take early decisions, such as investments or policies, that could shorten or limit the recessionary impacts from the pandemic.

The alliance is voluntary and insights will be published for free.

The Emer2gent consortium offers such enormous potential to deliver benefits to society – which are so badly needed at this difficult time.

Professor Mark Birkin, LIDA

Professor Mark Birkin, LIDA Co-Director, said: "Increasing numbers of academics and other commentators are now recognising the potential for commercial organisations to share important data to help in the battle against COVID-19.

"An established investment in data sharing capability and analytics capacity makes LIDA ideally placed to lead such conversations.

"We are delighted to bring our skills and expertise as a founder member in the Emer2gent consortium, which offers such enormous potential to deliver benefits to society – and which are so badly needed at this difficult time."

Caroline Gorski, Global Director at R2 Data Labs, the Rolls-Royce data innovation catalyst which started the alliance, said: “We want the global economy to get better as soon as possible so people can get back to work. Our data innovation community can help do this and is at its best when it comes together for the common good.

“People, businesses and governments around the world have changed the way they spend, move, communicate and travel because of COVID-19 and we can use that insight, along with other data, to provide the basis for identifying what new insights and trends may emerge that signify the world’s adjustment to a ‘new normal’ after the pandemic.”

Connecting business and academic communities

The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated the need for governments and their advisers to seek real-world insights into mobility, behaviour and human contact networks.

Since its inception in 2014, LIDA has been promoting the mutual benefit of collaborative projects between corporate partners and the academic community, with researchers working in cross industry teams to undertake scientific research that produces real world insights.

LIDA has a strong record of working with corporate partners through the ESRC Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC). The CDRC uses a similar collaboration model to engage partners in projects that use consumer data to provide unique insight into a range of societal and economic challenges.

As part of the Emer2gent alliance, LIDA will be utilising its extensive network – which includes the ESRC Business and Local Government Data Centres, the Alan Turing Institute, Doctoral Training Centres in Data Analytics and Society (ESRC) and Artificial Intelligence (UKRI) – to connect partners with academic experts from multiple institutions and disciplines.

As we face the unprecedented challenges posed by the covid-19 pandemic, such collaboration is more important than ever, and we are proud of our role in this important alliance.

Professor Lisa Roberts

Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, said: "University of Leeds academics have always forged strong collaborations with businesses to help policymakers solve some of the major problems facing society.

"As we face the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, such collaboration is more important than ever, and we are proud of our role in this important alliance."

Providing a secure infrastructure

LIDA and IBM will be providing the infrastructure to enable alliance partners to share and compute their data.

Where there is a need to use secure data, partners will be granted access to LIDA’s ISO-accredited infrastructure, which will enable them to perform analysis in a safe and controlled environment.

For projects using public data partners will use IBM’s environment, while any non-sensitive data will be shared via, where potential members can register their interest.

The first challenges have already been issued by the alliance, including one to identify lead indicators of economic recovery, which businesses can use to build the confidence they need for investment or activities that will shorten or limit recessionary impact from the virus.

LIDA encourages prospective academic participants to get in touch directly via to register for further updates. 

Helping tackle the coronavirus crisis

The Emer2gent alliance is the latest addition to the list of projects that LIDA researchers are working on in a bid to help tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Others include:

  • Data mining health records in partnership with the NHS to identify people who might be at more risk of coronavirus because of pre-existing health conditions. Those people can then be advised to take extra safeguards;
  • Chris Gale, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Co-Director of LIDA and Paul Kind, Professor of Health Economics, have secured funding to study health-related quality of life impact during the pandemic. Data will be taken from China and the UK;
  • The creation of a global acute coronary syndrome covid-19 registry/database which will collect information about patients infected with the virus and who have a heart attack;
  • LIDA researchers have recently received emergency funding from the MRC to measure and simulate infection and control policies within covid-infected wards in a London Hospital;
  • LIDA is also at the forefront of important research working with local agencies, government and other partners to investigate the longer-term consequences of the infection on social behaviour, economic performance and community cohesion.