Retiring Director Prof. Steve Caughey (left) and newly appointed Director Prof. Paul Watson (right)
Our Director Prof. Steve Caughey, who has been an integral part of the National Innovation Centre for Data's journey so far and has been with the Centre since its inception, is retiring this week. Prof. Paul Watson, who will no doubt be a familiar face to those who have worked with us previously, has been appointed to replace him.
Steve spent many years as a software developer and consultant, including co-founding, managing and then selling the distributed computing company Arjuna Solutions, before helping to establish the National Innovation Centre for Data in 2018, alongside Barry Hodgson, our Director of Strategy. He was one of the driving forces behind the Centre receiving £30 million in funding from the UK government and Newcastle University in 2019, an investment which brought us to our state-of-the-art home, The Catalyst, and allowed us to start building our team.
When asked what he is most proud of about his time as Director of the National Innovation Centre for Data, it is the team that takes top billing. "Top of my list would be having created such a coherent and talented team," Steve says, "and having gathered a bunch of individuals around us who are committed to the vision that we've laid out." He is also justifiably proud of having put Newcastle University on the map as a university, city and region that has "a strong focus on data", and he hopes that data will continue to be seen as a unique selling point for the North East.
"[We've] gathered a bunch of individuals around us who are committed to the vision that we've laid out."
Prof. Steve Caughey
Steve will be missed by all of us here, but his ideas and enthusiasm are certain to live on - especially as he, Barry and Paul have worked so closely together over the years. "We've built the National Innovation Centre for Data organically, delivering real outcomes for organisations of all sizes and, whilst it is now time to scale up, that same vision will carry forward," Barry says. And so Paul's appointment as Director could be said to be the next chapter in the National Innovation Centre for Data's story, rather than being a new story altogether. "We'll all miss Steve's clear, focussed and empathetic leadership style," Paul says, "but he leaves a wonderful legacy that we are working to build on."
Paul has an extensive background in data - it has been his research and teaching focus since joining Newcastle University in 1995 from industry. In addition to his new role as Director of the National Innovation Centre for Data, he is Professor of Computer Science at the University's School of Computing and a Fellow of The Alan Turing Institute, which is based out of the British Library in London. He was also formerly Director of Newcastle Data, a community of academics, researchers, students and partners working in data across the University.
"Steve leaves big shoes to fill," Paul says. "As the founding Director of the UK's National Innovation Centre for Data, he has built a powerful team who are delivering real value to scores of organisations across both the public and private sectors. Steve has achieved this even though COVID-19 meant that for two years we were unable to use one of our main assets - The Catalyst building - and so had to pivot quickly to move our collaborative projects and events online."
"We'll all miss Steve's clear, focussed and empathetic leadership style, but he leaves a wonderful legacy that we are working to build on."
Prof. Paul Watson
But, while Steve may leave big shoes to fill, Paul is confident and committed to carrying the National Innovation Centre for Data's vision into 2022 and beyond. "I'm excited to take over as Director," he says, "there's still lots to do as data science and AI are now impacting every sector of the economy and society. We'll be expanding our programme of collaborative projects, and introducing new, innovative ways to give private and public sector organisations the rare data science skills that they will need if the UK is to thrive."
Here's to a bright future, from all of us here at the National Innovation Centre for Data.