Edinburgh’s data-driven innovation programme is exceeding key targets in research impact and company creation according to a new annual report.

The £600 million DDI initiative – funded by government through a city region deal format – recorded 35,000 course completions, representing 24% of the overall target, in the 2022-23 academic year.

It also delivered £127 million in research activity, surpassing the planned £57 million by 125 per cent. In the target area of entrepreneurship, the initiative supported 41 data-centric technology companies, bringing the total number supported to 433 – that is 329 companies ahead of plan.

The DDI initiative is now in its fifth year – halfway through its funding cycle – is stewarded by the Universities of Edinburgh and Heriot Watt in the city. Since inception in 2018, six data-driven innovation ‘hubs’ have been created, housing expertise and facilities to help 10 industrial sectors become more innovative through data.

The University of Edinburgh hosts the Bayes Centre, Edinburgh Futures Institute, Easter Bush campus, Agritech Hub, Usher Institute for Population Health Sciences and Informatics and the Edinburgh International Data Facility – a supercomputing centre outside of the city. Working with the University of Edinburgh to deliver the 15-year programme is Heriot-Watt University, who will help deliver the National Robotarium.

The 2023 Annual Review highlights research, start-ups, and partnerships delivering benefits across a range of industry sectors; DDI is part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal and elivers key performance indicators (KPIs) across areas including talent, research, and entrepreneurship.

The Annual Review includes twenty case studies of data-driven research, external partnerships and education, showcasing diverse activities across six data-driven innovation hubs.

The Bayes Centre, Easter Bush Agritech Hub, the National Robotarium, and Edinburgh International Data Facility have already opened. The Edinburgh Futures Institute and new Usher Institute building are due to complete construction over the next year.

Activities featured in this year’s review include digital and data education, energy efficiency, environmental management, plus an initiative to tackle online child exploitation and abuse.

Other highlights from the year include ten research projects focused on using data-driven innovation to tackle ‘social change through innovation’ with the £191,000 research open call.

Projects supported by this included improving wildlife conservation through immersive technology, data-driven models for local energy storage and consumption, and audience insights from the Edinburgh Festival.

Jarmo Eskelinen, DDI’s executive director, said: “This has been year of significant milestones: the University of Edinburgh celebrated 60 years of research in artificial intelligence, and the Data-Driven Innovation initiative reached a halfway milestone. Despite some delays in construction works caused by the pandemic, DDI has made excellent progress through the first five years, moving from business case writing to securing the first large-scale Anchor Projects and building and equipping six DDI Innovation Hubs across two universities to become the Data Capital of Europe.”

By 2028, the DDI’s ambition is to establish the city region as a global hub for organisations that leverage data science to power their services. The goal is to attract international talent and investment and to set an example of how to drive regional growth and promote societal prosperity in the UK.