Scotland’s first AI and blockchain accelerator announced by Prime Minister

Theresa May has announced that Wayra UK, Telefonica’s open innovation platform, and Edinburgh University are launching an AI and Blockchain accelerator that will support 20 start-ups a year from September and create around 400 jobs.

Wayra UK has five existing accelerator programmes and currently supports around 50 companies a year with a ‘best in class’ accelerator programme, providing advice and mentorship to take ideas through to investment. This is their first venture in Scotland and the joint programme with the University of Edinburgh, supported by Scottish Enterprise, will provide spin outs and start-ups with an ability to scale, through direct access to Telefonica in the UK – and globally.

In the past six years, Wayra UK has supported more than 200 British and Irish start-ups that have raised over £150m in funding and entered into almost £10m worth of contracts with Telefónica. In addition to this partnership with Edinburgh University, Wayra UK has previously partnered with the Cabinet Office to support social entrepreneurs and currently partners with DCMS and GCHQ to support cyber security start-ups.

Edinburgh University has a track record in creating high value tech-based business and its Informatics Ventures programme, which launched in 2008, is behind Engage Invest Exploit (EIE), Scotland’s premier technology investor showcase annually connecting 60 Scottish tech firms with potential investors, partners and customers.

The recent UK Tech Nation Report revealed that 363 start-ups were incorporated in Edinburgh in 2017. Many of these new companies are focussed on artificial intelligence. The Prime Minister made the announcement during London Tech Week.

“There’s no doubt that AI and blockchain will change the way that we all live and work,” said Wayra UK Director Gary Stewart. “It is, therefore, an honour to work with the world leading University of Edinburgh, a global player in artificial intelligence and informatics, to find and support the entrepreneurs that will define our collective future.”

Gerard Grech, Chief Executive, Tech Nation, and Charlie Jeffrey, Vice Principal, Edinburgh University, are among the speakers at Digital Scotland 2018, hosted by FutureScot, in Glasgow on 21 June.

Dave Robertson, Head of College of Science and Engineering at Edinburgh University, added: “Our vision is to become the leading AI and blockchain accelerator in Europe, supporting the best start-ups to scale globally and we see this partnership as a valuable step to realising that aim. The search is on for the most innovative data-driven start-ups to join the programme in Edinburgh.”

The announcement comes ahead of finalisation of the £1.1bn Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, which aims to establish the region as data capital of Europe. As part of the City Region Deal, Edinburgh University will work with Heriot-Watt University to help organisations benefit from data-driven innovation and increase the talent supply for the region’s booming tech-sector.