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Southampton and Oxford to partner in new Institute for Web Science

The Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced £30M of funding to take forward research on the next generation of the World Wide Web.

The funding will create a new Institute for Web Science which will be led by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt, Professors in the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, who were appointed Government Information Advisers last June.

Speaking in London today (22 March), the Prime Minister highlighted the importance of Semantic Web and Linked Data technologies: "[The] next generation web is a simple concept, but I believe it has the potential to be just as revolutionary - just as disruptive to existing business and organisational models - as the web was itself […]

"Today I can announce the first funding for the next stage of this research - £30M to support the creation of a new institute, the Institute for Web Science - based here in Britain and working with government and British business to realise the social and economic benefits of advances in the web."

The Prime Minster commented on the work of Professor Berners-Lee and Shadbolt over the last year and emphasized his determination to take this further: "Building on the outstanding work Sir Tim and Nigel Shadbolt who have been leading on ‘making public data public’, I can now announce that we are determined to go further in breaking down the walled garden of government, using technology and information to provide greater transparency on the workings of Whitehall and give everyone more say over the services they receive."

The Universities of Southampton and Oxford will partner in the establishment of the new joint Institute for Web Science. (See full text of news announcement.)

Professor Nigel Shadbolt commented: "The Web is one of the most disruptive and transformative innovations we have ever witnessed. We must understand the forces that have shaped it, anticipate its evolution and determine its future social and economic impact. But we must also research a next generation of the Web. The announcement today will allow us to do this in the UK and to ensure that we remain pioneers and world class in this critical area."

He added: "The Institute for Web Science will act as a bridge between research and business, helping commercialise these new technologies. It will also help Government stimulate demand through procurement."

Uniquely, the Institute will foster a community of activist developers who use the next generation of Web standards in a practical context and encourage their adoption in mainstream open source tools. To achieve this, the new Institute will focus on the Semantic Web and Linked Data Technologies.

It will also look at the wider discipline of "Web Science" that creates the ecosystem needed for semantic technologies to be deployed and used effectively. It will have a Web Science orientation where the technology is understood in terms of a wider interplay with societal, economic, legal and other drivers.

Dame Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science in the University of Southampton and Director of the Web Science Doctoral Training Centre, said: "On behalf of the Web Science community in Southampton, Oxford and around the world, I congratulate Tim and Nigel on this fantastic achievement. In their work with the UK government over the last year they have demonstrated not only the power and value of linked data for public good, but also the huge potential of the Web in the future.

"When we established Web Science as a research discipline we knew that we were at the beginning of something very exciting. It is wonderful to see that our confidence is now shared in the Government and public sector, and in business. This is a great day and we look forward to the future!"

Professors Berners-Lee, Hall and Shadbolt are all Founding Programme Directors and Trustees of the Web Science Trust, launched last year to foster education and research in Web Science.

Professor Don Nutbeam, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton, commented: ‘I am delighted that Southampton will play such a fundamental role in shaping the next-generation technologies and capabilities of the World Wide Web. I congratulate Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt for their recent work which has demonstrated the transformational power of the Web in delivering data and information which is of real value.

"This new role will build on Southampton's established world-class research and expertise in Web Science. We now look forward to working with universities and business around the world as we take this research initiative forward.’

For further information contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453.

For further comment, see:

Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC

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Posted by Joyce Lewis on 22 Mar 2010.