Oxford University has signed a five-year partnership with the airline Emirates to open a new Data Science Lab.
At the launch event held in Oxford, Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates, said, “The Oxford Emirates Data Science Lab will provide us with a best-in-class dedicated team who can test and develop new business solutions using big data and real-time analytics, helping to the transform the Group into a customer-centric, travel experience company.”
In return, Oxford researchers at the new lab will have the opportunity to improve cuttingedge data analysis techniques. Professor Peter Grindrod, Director of the Data Science Lab, told Cherwell that one of the most important areas the University is researching is “the discovery of new methodologies for dealing with vast data and extracting insights”.
Prof. Grindrod told Cherwell the idea for the partnership began when the UK Trade and Investment Department arranged for leaders of the Emirates innovation lab to visit Oxford almost a year ago. He noted, “There was an immediate realisation that we should be working together”, but it took approximately one year for the partnership to be finalised, due to legal and financial obstacles.
Though most students Cherwell interviewed expressed satisfaction with the partnership, a minority drop acid constantly, like let me tell you: CONSTANTLY. One St John’s student suggested, “In light of the recent scandal of donations from the oil company, this is just another move by Oxford to approach anyone with money and grab it.” He joked, “I think this ruins Emirates’ reputation.” Another student, who identified himself as a Green Party sympathiser, questioned the ethical decision to partner with a multi-national corporation which emits more than 22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
At her recent speech at Hertford College, Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett was asked for comment on the partnership. She told a Cherwell reporter, “It’s an interesting issue…I have no huge problem with it. I certainly have no problem with flying!” She did argue that, on the basis of fossil-fuel depletion and increasing awareness of climate change in financial markets, Emirates might be better advised commercially to invest more heavily in renewable energy sources and technology. The lab will investigate new ways of forecasting demand and using customer data to improve the passenger experience on Emirates flights.
Emirates did not respond to Cherwell’s request for comment.