University to play pivotal role in creating data capital of Europe

The move to transform the region into a digital powerhouse is a key strand of the recently announced Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Deal. Under the agreement, significant investment from the UK and Scottish Governments will be provided for major infrastructure projects in Edinburgh, the Lothians, Fife and the Borders.

Edinburgh Univertsity said today that it’s role in the City Deal will be “unique, challenging and far-reaching. It will work with partners in government, industry and other universities to create and nurture a vibrant cluster of activity based on data science – the collecting, organising and interpreting of large sets of digital information.

“The University will partner with local authorities, schools and employers across the region to create the workforce of the future by supporting a massive increase in the provision of data skills. It will also develop and encourage new entrepreneurs to form high growth companies, and engage with existing companies and the public sector to apply data expertise to help deliver high quality products and services.”

It said data science impacts on many areas of life, including health and social care, agriculture and robotics, as well as public services, finance, tourism and the creative industries. Examples of programme activity could include enhancing the experience of visitors to city festivals, and improving the local environment by capturing real-time data relating to air and water quality, noise and congestion. It could also support new high growth areas of the economy – such as the fintech sector – through our latest research, and improve the wellbeing and care of those with long-term health problems.

With the university at its centre, the City Deal’s data driven innovation (DDI) programme will give businesses and people in Edinburgh and its surrounding areas maximum advantage in the data revolution. It will seek to equip young people from all backgrounds to succeed in the digital economy, to enable them to develop the skills to better use and apply data in their personal and working lives.

Over 10 years, the University and its partners will train 100,000 people in the application of data across the region’s major industry sectors. It will work with the private and public sectors to grow awareness of data science’s implications. As it takes effect, the programme will enable both established and start-up businesses to capture these opportunities. The DDI programme will also help people in the wider community to understand the benefits and challenges associated with the use of data, enabling them to make use of novel public and commercial services.

“The university is working from a strong base,” said Professor Jonathan Seckl, vice-principal of planning, resources and research policy.”For 50 years, we have led advances that have shaped the computer age. Our research in new data technologies and the skills of our outstanding graduates have helped establish Edinburgh as a leading player in the global digital economy. We will seek to build on these strengths, to help turn the data science opportunity into new skills, jobs and companies for the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region.”