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Waikato Data Scientists awarded $13 million

23 October 2019

Lead researcher Prof Albert Bifet
World renowned data scientist, and lead researcher at The University of Waikato, Prof Albert Bifet.

Leading data scientists at the University of Waikato have been awarded $13 million this week for a new research project that will help New Zealanders solve critical environmental problems facing our country.

This is the largest project to be funded in recent years at the University and will be spread over seven years.

The TAIAO project (Time-Evolving Data Science / Artificial Intelligence for Advanced Open Environmental Science) will not only be researched-based but eventually provide fit-for-purpose tools and methods that can be used by researchers and practitioners across all areas of the New Zealand environment.

Robyn Longhurst, Acting Vice-Chancellor from the University of Waikato, says that the funding announcement reflects the world-class data science capabilities at the University.

“The University of Waikato has long been a leader in the field of computer science, and we are thrilled to be leading a new project of such significance to New Zealand,” says Professor Longhurst.

Lead researcher, Professor Albert Bifet says this new project will not only have an impact on the field of data science by developing new methods to deal with large volumes of time series data, but it will also have a positive impact on our environment.

“We see this project as an opportunity to combine international learnings with the passion of our own data science researchers to preserve our famously beautiful lakes, rivers, forests, estuaries and mountains for future generations.”

Professor Bifet is world-renowned for his contributions to data science as an author and core founder of the MOA machine learning software. He is a recipient of the competitive Entrepreneurial Universities fund, which aims to attract world-leading entrepreneurial researchers to New Zealand – giving them the opportunity to teach at their choice of New Zealand university.

Professor Bifet, who has worked for global giants including Yahoo and Huawei, says that his decision to come to the University of Waikato came down to the world-leading data science happening at the University.

“The data science capabilities at the University of Waikato might be New Zealand’s best-kept secret. The Weka suite of machine learning is so well known and widely used internationally – but most Kiwis don’t realise that it was developed right here at Waikato.”

The project is a new collaboration between the Universities of Waikato, Auckland and Canterbury, as well as Beca and MetService, and includes world-leading data scientists, data engineers, and environmental scientists.

The key research team from the University of Waikato includes lead researcher Professor Albert Bifet, alongside Professor James Brasington, Professor Karin Bryan, Professor Eibe Frank, Professor Geoff Holmes and Professor Bernhard Pfahringer.

Funding has been granted from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment via their Strategic Science Investment Fund.

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