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Shoreditch a hub of 'exciting innovation', says science minister

David Willetts lays out economic recovery with data apps

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Big Tent Science minister David Willetts told a gathering at Google's Big Tent event this morning that future scientific research will rely heavily on the mining, slicing and dicing of data from the public sector.

His comments come as the government's Open Data Institute was launched, having been plonked on the London's Silicon Roundabout late last year. The outfit will encourage small biz and entrepreneurs, with the help of a £10m pot, to turn raw information from Blighty's government into something tangible and worthwhile.

Data such as statistics on crime, the weather, schools figures and other stuff is expected to be mangled by software makers in search of financial value.

Tech City, as Cabinet ministers prefer to describe the Shoreditch roundabout, got a special mention by Willetts, who lumped it in with research in Cambridge as an example of a "very exciting" cluster of "innovation" that'll help boost the UK economy.

Indeed, as expected, Willetts failed to stray away from espousing the importance of open data and the ability to repackage it as any app developer sees fit. The minister stuck to safe ground for the crowd of Guardian readers (for one day only, at least), by saying that huge datasets will be needed to help develop search and ranking tools - which presumably is where Google comes in.

The well-documented love-in between the government and Google showed no sign of letting up today. But then, why would it.

On the "virtual world", which basically means anything to do with the interwebs, Willetts offered up this nugget: "I recognise this is going to change nearly everything that I do as a minister."

The minister later added, with a nod to Prof Ian Hargreaves' so-called Google Review, that he was in favour of open access to publicly funded research. Willetts opining that not only had Hargreaves "taken an important step forward" but that Google chairman Eric Schmidt - with his MacTaggart lecture in 2011 - had really helped get the party started. ®

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