Centre for Doctoral Training

DREAM is a Centre for Doctoral Training in ‘Data, Risk and Environmental Analytical Methods›, established between four leading Universities – Cranfield, Newcastle, Cambridge, and Birmingham

Welcome to DREAM!

Our Centre of Doctoral Training in ‘Data, Risk and Environmental Analytical Methods’ embraces a wide range of world-leading Doctoral research in the area of Big Data and Environmental Risk Mitigation. Our training and development programme has sought to support and nurture excellence in our science activities. The research underway in DREAM addresses key NERC and ESRC science objectives in an exciting area of development which will play a critical role in our national industrial and sustainable environmental future. Commenced in 2015, the DREAM CDT has now gained real traction across a broad spectrum of industrial partners and end-users with evidence of significant high-impact outcomes.

The DREAM Centre for Doctoral Training’s principle asset is its people: our students, sponsors, industrial and academic supervisors, and the university staff who deliver the programme, research support and training.

Professor Stephen Hallett
DREAM Centre Champion and Director
Chair of Applied Environmental Informatics, Cranfield University

DREAM Overview

In our increasingly digital world, ‘big data’ is ever more important to business and society. Collected by devices from mobile phones to unmanned aerial vehicles, and from satellite remote sensing devices, embedded sensor networks and crowd-sourcing by example, the resultant datasets can become so large and complex that it becomes difficult to apply traditional data processing applications to them. The combination of a variety of data originating from disaggregated sources offers potential to reveal new understanding through the process of the fusion of multiple data sources.

Addressing the skills gap

The UK Government recognises a skills gap in this area, and this Cranfield-led Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) will help bridge this gap, developing and shaping industry and policy leaders able to draw effectively on big data to improve operational efficiencies, cost reductions and reduce risk.

Addressing the data challenge

The challenges of such volumes of data necessitate a new generation of analytical tools and approaches to fulfill these opportunities. Allied to this is the need for a new generation of data scientists and informaticians, who are wholly conversant in theory and practice, and able to seize the opportunities of Big Data to design and implement effective risk mitigation strategies for academe, industry, NGOs and government across the environmental sciences.

The DREAM Doctoral Researchers

The DREAM CDT, announced on 3rd Feb 2015, provides the opportunity for 39 fully-funded PhD studentships in four cohorts, as well as affiliated Doctoral Researchers, to undertake postgraduate research and to apply practical big data analytics. The training researchers receive will combine excellence in risk mitigation science with cutting-edge big data interpretation across the environmental sciences.

Drawing on long-established consortium collaboration and complementary expertise, we seek outcomes for DREAM that include:

  • Support for scientific excellence in the use of Big Data principles to improve the understanding of environmental risks and mitigation options across the NERC thematic priorities, and the role of Big Data in improving decision making
  • Development of the next generation of doctoral students equipped to address the ‘grand challenges’ in the use of Big Data for Risk and Mitigation analysis
  • Provision of graduate expert practitioners able to satisfy the strong sector demand for leading edge researchers in the field of Big Data for the environmental and social sciences
  • Establishment of a student-focused centre of excellence in the use of Big Data approaches to environmental science via the CDT partnership, with support from its sponsor base

DREAM key elements

The programme will support the application of the the latest technologies to environmental data from sensor networks across the UK, in order to deliver information in unprecedented detail, enabling the construction of an integrated, digital picture of our natural environment, bringing benefit to policy-makers and other users.

Acquisition of data

The ability to acquire unprecedented amounts of environmental data – utilising technologies such as remote sensing, Internet of Things, citizen science and data mining.

Storage and processing of big data

The ability to store and process big data through the unprecedented and elastic/on demand resources offered by cloud computing (cf. the age of exascale computing).

Data Science and AI

The ability to make sense of this big data through breakthroughs in data science and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and an associated generation of new analytical techniques.

Visualisation, Decision-support

The ability to visualise, present and interact with this data and its subsequent analyses to support communication to different stakeholder groups, and hence support decision-making.


Doctoral researchers, DREAM and affiliates


Partner organisations involved


Universities involved


Years underway since 2015

Partner Contacts


The CDT research underway seeks to utilise emerging technologies, techniques and tools, to more accurately monitor the environment, enabling cutting edge research. To provide end-users with more integrated information at improved temporal and spatial resolutions to deliver solutions to environmental challenges (both acute and long- term).

Funded by NERC (the Natural Environment Research Council, NERC Ref: NE/M009009/1), the DREAM (Data, Risk and Environmental Analytical Methods) consortium is made up of Cranfield, Newcastle, Cambridge and Birmingham universities. Two of the studentships in DREAM are interdisciplinary studentships, co-funded by ESRC and NERC, capturing economic and social themes in the field of big data and risk mitigation.

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Cranfield Location

Centre for Environmental & Agricultural Informatics, Blg 53, School of Water, Energy and Environment, Cranfield University, Bedfordshire MK43 0AL, UK

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+44 (0)1234 750111

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