Development & Alumni Relations Office 


03 September 2018

Queen’s and Swansea universities have been granted a £54 million investment to transform healthcare through data science.

Both universities have been selected by the national institute for data science in health, Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) as its Wales and Northern Ireland sites as part of an initiative to work with NHS partners.

As one of the six substantive locations chosen through a rigorous internationally peer reviewed competition, this innovative partnership will take advantage of the ground-breaking science that is already happening at Queen’s and Swansea and will enable HDR-UK Wales Northern Ireland to make bigger advances in health research, by partnering with other universities across the UK.

Launching this new multimillion pound research partnership, Vice-Chancellor and President of Queen’s University Professor Ian Greer said: “This vibrant partnership highlights our commitment to harness and implement the promise of data science.

“Queen’s University has recognised international strengths in health data science, reflected in publications in the highest impact journals including New England Journal of Medicine, Nature Medicine and Lancet Oncology.

“Our Global Research Institute in Electronics, Communications and Information Technology is an international leader in the Big Data domain. Forging a partnership with Swansea University, who have world leading expertise in health data science with a specific focus on public health, represents a significant opportunity to coalesce our collective strengths in an innovative partnership to preserve and enhance human health.”

Professor Mark Lawler, Chair in Translational Cancer Genomics at Queen’s and Associate Director HDR UK is driving the cancer health data agenda in his role as overall HDR UK lead for cancer. Professor Lawler, said: “While Northern Ireland and Wales may be small in size, we punch well above our weight in data science research and its application.

“Our work in precision medicine in colorectal cancer is already delivering new insights for this common disease that kills over 16,000 citizens in the UK each year, while our joint HDR-UK Fellowship programme is training the future leaders in health data sciences research.

“This partnership can also make a pivotal contribution to the UK’s ambition to be a global leader in life sciences and underpin national and local economic development.”

Professor Andrew Morris, Director of Health Data Research UK said: “I am delighted that Swansea University and Queen’s University have been chosen as an HDR UK Substantive Site and are bringing together researchers from different domains in an interdisciplinary partnership to transform the health of the population in Wales, Northern Ireland and beyond.

“Queen’s and Swansea will be key drivers of our health-preserving and economy-advancing ambitions across the UK.”

To find out more about supporting health and medical research at Queen’s visit the Development and Alumni Relations Office website or contact Teresa Sloan, Head of Health Fundraising (Individual Giving), telephone +44 (0)28 9097 5394. 

Media enquiries to Sian Devlin, Communications Officer at Queen’s University Belfast or telephone: +44 (0)28 9097 5840.


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13 February 2018

Health Data Research UK has selected six sites across the UK – including Queen’s – to address challenging healthcare issues and to drive advances in precision medicine and public health, through use of data science.

Each site has world-class expertise and a track record in using health data to derive new knowledge, scientific discovery and insight.

Queen’s will work with Swansea University (led by Professor Ronan Lyons) as one of these substantive sites, using its expertise in data science to drive advances in precision medicine and public health in close partnership with NHS bodies and the public, in order to translate research findings into benefits for patients and populations.

Professor Mark Lawler, Queen's lead on the programme, said: “I am delighted that we have been chosen as a substantive site for this exciting new initiative. This research will be a game-changer in driving new knowledge to combat common diseases including cancer, asthma and eye disorders and will allows us to use Big Data to save people’s lives.”

From April this year, the six sites will work collaboratively as foundation partners in Health Data Research UK to make significant improvements in people’s health by harnessing data science at scale across the UK. 

Each site’s research organisations will receive long-term funding awards and will become part of a collaborative research community working together to deliver the priorities of Health Data Research UK. This initial funding has been awarded following a rigorous application process, which included interviews with an international panel of experts.

Professor Andrew Morris, Director of Health Data Research UK, commented: “I am delighted to make today’s announcement, which marks the start of a unique opportunity for scientists, researchers and clinicians to use their collective expertise to transform the health of the population. 

“The six HDR UK sites, comprising 21 universities and research institutes, have tremendous individual strengths and will form a solid foundation for our long-term ambition. By working together and with NHS and industry partners to the highest ethical standards, our vision is to harness data science on a national scale. This will unleash the potential for data and technologies to drive breakthroughs in medical research, improving the way we are able to prevent, detect and diagnose diseases like cancer, heart disease and asthma. 

“I am grateful to our funders who recognise the importance of collaboration at scale, and the pivotal contribution of health data research to the UK’s ambition to be a global leader in life sciences, for health and economic benefit.”

Professor James McElnay, Acting-Vice-Chancellor and President, Queen’s said: “This is a tremendous achievement for our researchers here at Queen’s. It is a recognition of the leadership that we have shown in the area of Big Data and Health Science and represents a superb opportunity to employ these skills to enhance human health."

Professor Chris Elliott, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences at Queen’s said: “I am delighted that we have achieved this prestigious award, it aligns perfectly with the One Health Strategy of our Faculty and highlights our ability to lead and deliver high quality research with patient impact.”

Health Data Research UK is committed to the highest ethical standards and will work with experts in public engagement to ensure the public voice is central to its activity. It will work at scale and forge national and international partnerships to deliver:

  • New scientific discovery
  • A vibrant training environment for the next generation of data scientists
  • A trustworthy UK-wide research and innovation ecosystem for health data research.

Reflecting on the announcement, Professor Ian Young, Head of the Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland), said. “I am delighted that Queen's University Belfast came through this rigorous competitive selection process and will help lead a transformative data science initiative across the UK. Northern Ireland has key skills in this area and translating outputs from this programme will have key benefits for patients and society in Northern Ireland.” 

The six successful Health Data Research UK sites are:

  1. Cambridge – Wellcome Sanger Institute, European Bioinformatics Institute, University of Cambridge
  2. London – UCL, Imperial College London, King's College London, Queen Mary University of London, The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  3. Midlands – University of Birmingham, University of Leicester, University of Nottingham, University of Warwick
  4. Oxford – University of Oxford
  5. Scotland – University of Edinburgh, University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee, University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews, University of Strathclyde
  6. Wales/Northern Ireland – Swansea University, Queen’s University Belfast

To support medical research at Queen’s, visit the Development Office website or contact Helen Surgenor, (Head of Medical Fundraising), telephone 028 9097 1568.

Media inquiries to Sian Devlin in the Communications Office at Queen's University Belfast on tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5292.

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