A Fribourg Professor hits the jackpot

The European Research Council has just awarded a grant of 2 million euros to Philippe Cudré-Mauroux, Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of Fribourg. This will enable him to conduct a project on ‘big data’, a rapidly expanding area of research.

In the current jargon, the grant which Philippe Cudré-Mauroux has received is called an ERC Consolidator Grant. This is one of the most prestigious awards that the European Research Council has to confer. It is only awarded to experienced scientists whose research proposal is able to convince a panel of international experts. Obviously, Philippe Cudré-Mauroux is not a newcomer, as he has worked in educational institutions as prestigious as MIT and the University of Berkeley. This European grant will allow him to fulfil his ambition: “It’s a unique opportunity”, exclaims the researcher from Bulles (Oise). “Thanks to this grant, I’ll be able to put together a top-level research team in the fields of cloud computing and data management”.

The Big Bang of Data

With the help of these funds, Philippe Cudré-Mauroux will attempt to make use of ‘big data’, digital information the volume of which has literally exploded over the last ten years: “If we manage to extract and analyse this immense amount of data, we will be able to construct extremely powerful predictive models to anticipate movements in stock market prices, to model and predict vehicle traffic on the Fribourg ring road or even the buying habits of consumers”. However, the obstacles are huge, since the data, apart from their size, are also extremely varied in kind. Today, the classic computer programs of the past are proving to be totally inadequate in extracting information from them. “My goal”, Philippe Cudré-Mauroux continues, “is to develop systems capable of marrying up text, emails, photos or even GPS coordinates and, above all, of making sense of them”.

Although this research is very mathematical and theoretical, its applications are very practical: “What appeals to me about it”, he declares, “is that it will enable me to assist businesses or institutions which have an urgent need of help at this very moment”.