Suzy McClintock Data Sparks


4 min read
data observatory

19 Oct 2016 saw the launch of the Imperial Business Analytics Data Spark scheme. Now running into it’s second year,  Data Spark connects Imperial academics and students with businesses. Teams tackle specific data-driven client problems, to uncover insights and opportunities in the data that may otherwise go unnoticed.

Our advancing digital world has seen an exponential rise in the amount of data available. 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years alone. Imperial Business Analytics is uniquely positioned to help bring data science research closer to the world of business.

The Data Spark scheme is a pioneering new initiative; leveraging some of the world’s best academics, industry experts and technologies, the scheme  offers opportunities for students to harness the leading research occurring right here on campus and apply this to problems faced within the business world.

In teams of four to five people, students spend six weeks tackling genuine problems facing businesses to provide fresh insights into the data and developing patterns. Within these six weeks they transform the wealth of data they’re given into a great story that they can share.

Designed for students with a desire to learn innovative business techniques, or build their leadership skills. Full-Time MBA student Suzy McClintock said, “The Data Spark scheme provides an opportunity to leverage my leadership and business skills while learning more about working with and interpreting Big Data to understand and solve business problems. It’s an incredible opportunity to work with a company like KPMG on projects that have a real-world impact.”

Cynthia Yoon, an Analyst at KPMG, joined the launch to discuss the Data Spark scheme and the opportunities it provides for exposure to KPMG Leadership, “One of the most exciting parts of the alliance between Imperial and KPMG is the Data Spark programme””

The KPMG Data Observatory

The launch gave students the chance to see work from previous Data Spark projects showcased in the KPMG Data Observatory, a 310 degree visualisation space designed by and housed within the Data Science Institute on our South Kensington campus.

The KPMG Data Observatory is an impressive structure. A circular wall of 64 monitors, the screens are driven by 32 computers and amass to a total resolution of more than 130 million pixels. Dr David Birch from the Data Science Institute explains “The Observatory provides a new tool for generating insight from Big Data in a collaborative social setting using visual analytics. The high performance computing and high resolution display enables large quantities of data to be explored by multidisciplinary teams generating and communicating new data-driven discoveries”.

Tours of the Observatory were led by Eva Kirchberger, a PhD student at the Business School  “Data Spark is a student accelerator. In only 6 weeks, a multidisciplinary team of postgraduate students deliver fast responses to client queries based on data analytics, which would otherwise have taken years to explore. The beauty of the projects is their richness in variety – from identifying individual driving behaviours to unravelling the emergence of the sharing economy.”

The event showcased two Data Spark projects recently delivered by last year’s students and how, by taking part in the projects, they were able to help turn a vast pool of data into an impressive visualisation.

Understanding the Sharing Economy
Students analysed the results of a survey of the UK population on their usage of sharing economy platforms, such as Uber and Airbnb. The findings give insight into the characteristics of the population of adopters and non-adopters, as well as into the usage of some of the main sharing economy platforms.

Development of Driving Data Insights
In this proof-of-concept project, the Data Spark team demonstrated how a mobile phone app could have the potential to rival black box insurance

Dr Mark Kennedy emphasised the level of work that students can accomplish during the scheme, “The fact that students are able to do this in six weeks as a result of what they have learnt on their courses is very impressive.”

Written by Charlotte Nixon, Imperial College Business School