The Institute, to be hosted by Oxford and Southampton universities, will be headed by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. Its brief will run from conducting research, to collaborating with industry, identifying opportunities for social and economic applications and assisting in commercialising research.
While the initial set of Web 1.0 standards made it possible to publish documents that users could search for and retrieve, Web 2.0 allows users to contribute and create web content more easily. Web 3.0, also referred to as the Semantic Web, will take the Internet to new level by publishing data in a linkable format, allowing users and developers to see and exploit the relationships between different sets of information.
The impact of this technology is likely to be as important as the creation of the original web. The role of the Institute will be to undertake research and development, and act as a bridge between research and business, helping commercialise these new technologies.
It will also advise the government on how semantic technologies can be used in the public sector, and how public procurement can be used to speed their adoption.
The government has already funded a number of case studies for early semantic web projects. These include Mapping Clusters of UK Technology Excellence in which Research Councils UK, the Technology Strategy Board and the Intellectual Property Office collaborated to develop linked datasets in four key technology areas of regenerative medicine, plastic electronics, Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) and advanced composite materials. These datasets were in turn linked to Google maps.
Because the datasets have common elements and vocabulary any company or potential investor can identify where the clusters of expertise lie in these emerging technologies, the companies/organisations involved, the projects they are involved in, and how much public money has gone into them. It also enables UK Science Parks to market their sites on the basis of the strength of the clusters on and around the science park in question.
The organisations that set up this project are now rolling it out across all technologies. The result is expected to be a comprehensive picture of research and technology in the UK, along with all the inputs and outputs, and evolving relationships.
Another project is looking at linking health data, while a third is linking health and social security, to allow sharing of data between these two government departments.