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Imperial College London and the University of Southampton have announced they are to become the first universities in the UK to work with IBM to make Watson, the cognitive computing system, available to their undergraduate and postgraduate students for education and research.

IBM is giving students and staff unprecedented access to Watson technology and experts. Imperial College London is offering new courses to provide students with opportunities for hands-on learning as they work to develop cognitive computing solutions to address business and what the University calls ‘societal challenges.’

The partnership extends cognitive systems activities in Imperial’s Department of Computing as well as in other College departments already involved in related interdisciplinary research. In return senior IBM executives and ‘thought leaders’ will be invited to give guest lecturers.

Selected undergraduate and postgraduate students from the Department of Computing at theImperial College London will be enrolled in early 2015 in a course organized and led by Dr Alessandra Russo, the Department’s Director of Postgraduate Research.

The University of Southampton will collaborate with IBM Watson on interdisciplinary PhD research projects across a range of sectors from Marine & Maritime to Computer Science, Computational Chemistry and Medical Research.

Southampton students will also engage with Watson through a new Cognitive Computing module as part of its Curriculum Innovation programme which will initially be available to over 150 undergraduate and Master’s students across all disciplines.

It is encouraging that such partnerships are being created by our leading Universities since the UK government’s own figures show that despite the IT industry delivering an annual economic contribution of £84 billion or 6 percent of the total UK economy we are still not able to deliver the 120,000 new entrants IT needs every year.

Professor David Gann, Vice President (Development and Innovation) at Imperial College London, said: “As a leader in education and research in cognitive computing, Imperial College London aims to prepare industry-ready students to harness this combination of science and technology and create innovative products and services.

"It is crucial for our students to be able to work with the most cutting-edge systems and technologies, and we are truly excited about this partnership with IBM - which will enable this through a multidisciplinary and systematic approach.

"Our Department of Computing already collaborates closely with IBM in areas related to security, network management and intelligence services. This new initiative takes our strategic alliance to a new level. Students and researchers will benefit greatly from access to the latest generation of capabilities from IBM.”

As part of the arrangement, IBM will provide:

- Access to IBM Watson through the Watson Developer Cloud;

- IBM developers and researchers, to advise on new content and implementation;

- Guest lectures to be conducted by senior IBM executives and thought leaders and;

- IBM Watson technical mentors to provide guidance, as students work with Watson and build prototypes of cognitive business applications.