Gillian Docherty is to step down from her role as chief executive of Scotland’s national innovation centre for data and artificial intelligence (AI) for a new position in the higher education sector.

The Data Lab has today announced that Docherty, who has led the organisation for six years, will leave in January 2022.

The former IBM executive will join the University of Strathclyde as its new chief commercial officer in February.

She will work across the institution to “drive forward” its activities with industry and support Scotland and the UK’s economic recovery from the global pandemic.

Docherty said: “I am very much looking forward to joining the University of Strathclyde as chief commercial officer. The opportunity to join an extremely talented team and to contribute to the impact the university has on our economy and society and on tackling some of the most important challenges our world is facing is very exciting.”

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, University of Strathclyde Principal, said: “I am delighted to announce Gillian’s appointment and she brings with her a significant track-record of success, leadership and impact. She will be a strong addition to the university’s management team.

“As a leading international technological university, we are extremely proud of our network of partners across business and industry in the UK and globally. Our approach to collaboration is accelerating the development of new technologies, helping companies compete internationally, informing public policy and supporting the economy. Gillian will play an important role in the next chapter of this work.”

Brian Hills, deputy chief executive of The Data Lab, will step in as her interim replacement.

He said: “Since Gillian joined The Data Lab, she has done a tremendous job of elevating the profile of AI and data science across academia and business in Scotland. We are extremely grateful for her leadership and contribution that she has made during her tenure and wish her the best for her future endeavours.”

Les Bayne, chairman of The Data Lab board, added: “The work and programmes achieved under the leadership of Gillian over the last six years have made a considerable difference to Scotland’s AI and data sectors and set the tone for the future of the organisation. I extend my thanks to Gillian for her support and ambition, which has benefitted the centre and all who work for and with The Data Lab.

“Brian has worked closely with Gillian during her tenure and will step into the interim role upon her departure. The board and I will continue to work closely with Brian and the wider organisation during this interim period to continue the brilliant work of The Data Lab.”

The Data Lab will shortly commence its search for a new chief executive.