CDRC – University of Leeds


In 2014, the University received very substantial ESRC funding to create a UK Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC). Mick is Visiting Professor at the University of Leeds, and co-investigator on the project.

The idea is to combine many data sources, Open Data and Commercial, to inform a range of important National research, policy and planning issues, as well as to help the UK work at the top of our collective game in this highly competitive “Big Data” era. The deliverables will further social science and (over time) add value to the commercial data sources used inside the program. It is a five year program.

The CDRC will link with another major big data initiative at University of Leeds in Medical Bioinformatics funded by the Medical Research Council. The two centres will work together under the umbrella of the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics to develop infrastructure and services to the academic, business, medical and other user group communities. A key aim is to establish an interdisciplinary institute of global excellence, bringing together a cadre of world leading researchers and contributing to a programme of innovation in big data analytics and data science.

The CDRC concept and vision was created and brings together University of Leeds researchers from the School of Geography, Leeds University Business School, Leeds Institute for Transport Studies and the School of Earth and Environment.

The Leeds team is led by CDRC Director and Principal Investigator, Professor Mark Birkin from the School of Geography. Mark is a Professor of Spatial Analysis and Policy and Director of the GeoSpatial Data Analysis and Simulation node of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods (TALISMAN project).

The investigators at Leeds will also collaborate with Queen’s University Belfast and UCL are working with the Universities of Liverpool and Oxford.

One “driver” project is to look at Ethical Shopping Behaviour, and the influences on Consumer Choice.

The research team will conduct five interlinked studies:

The first intends to capture the full scope of factors influencing conventional and ethical consumption choices.

The second focuses on whether and how firms should design marketing/ promotional appeals to increase the power of sustainability positioning

The third seeks to track actual purchase behaviour of green product strategies against consumer pro-environmental attitudes and regulatory interventions.

The fourth links insights into consumers’ psychological processes with company financial data to understand consumer financial decision-making.

The fifth study connects consumer behaviour and financial decisions with local area socio-economic conditions in order to produce analysis of the sustainability of business populations and their performance outputs.

Another “driver” project is Urban Mobility and Movement Patterns

This project is concerned with the critical interrelationships between time and space and how this impacts on the local movement of people. The research will examine movement patterns from a variety of consumer data sources (e.g. mobile phone calls, social media posts, retail loyalty cards, bank accounts and transaction data).

It will create a detailed picture of patterns of daily travel behaviour that will be extremely relevant for planners, businesses, academia, and wider society. Outcomes will be directed in three areas:

i) retail ‘what-if’ scenarios

ii) public services e.g. health care, crime prevention

iii) commuting and migration