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Ulster University has announced that it will lead a major multi-million pound research project designed to harness the power of big data to better inform public policy and improve health and wellbeing outcomes across Europe.

The Meaningful Integration of Data, Analytics and Services (MIDAS) project was awarded over 4.5 million euros in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme.

The Ulster University led project will develop a pioneering digital platform for healthcare policy makers. This will allow these decision-makers to tap into unstructured and unconnected healthcare data to better inform policy, reduce costs and improve health and wellbeing of the population.

The MIDAS platform will investigate connecting patient data from European health authorities with individual data collected from apps, sensors and social media. Complying with the highest standards of data protection and ethics, the data will be analysed on the MIDAS platform, which provides a tool for policy makers to benchmark, simulate and forecast outcomes of healthcare policy decisions.

Lead researcher and overall project co-ordinator from Ulster University, Dr Michaela Black, said: “Ulster University is at the forefront of research into big data and its potential to transform societies and economies both locally and globally. Both the healthcare systems in Europe and the general population generate vast amounts of health and wellbeing related data on a daily basis, from prescription orders and waiting lists to daily step counts and heart rate recordings.

“Currently no system combines secured and anonymised data from a range of sources such as that directly available from the public, for example lifestyle via the FitBit, with the healthcare system data, such as hospital records. Our research will harness this available data to provide extremely valuable insights into the health of a population.

“With these insights policy makers can design evidence-based preventative strategies and implement policies that address specific health and social care challenges. The University research will dramatically enhance the effectiveness of health care policies across Europe by allowing decision-makers to more readily explore health trends, test theories and look for correlations and patterns.”

The MIDAS project will be coordinated by Ulster University in partnership with other leading universities, public health authorities including the NHS, research institutions and private sector organisations across Spain, Slovenia, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, UK and North America.

Partners include Dublin City University, Ireland; K U Leuven, Belgium; Oulun Yliopisto, Finland; Arizona State University, United States; HSC Health & Social Care (HSC), NI; Business Services Organisation (BSO); HSE Health Service Executive Ireland (HSE); Terveyden Ja Hyvinvoinnin Laitos (THL) Finland; Public Health England (PHE); BIOEF (representing the Basque Public Health System, Spain); Fundacion Centro de Tecnologias de Interaccion Visual y Comunicaciones Vicomtech, Spain; Teknologian tutkimuskeskus VTT Oy, Finland; Analytics Engines Limited, United Kingdom; IBM Ireland Limited, Ireland and Quintelligence d.o.o, Slovenia.