Scotland’s innovation centre for data and AI has announced an interim chief executive as a search gets underway to appoint someone permanently in the role.

Brian Hills will be responsible for leading the 50-plus strong team at The Data Lab – driving the growth of AI and data science skills across the academic and business community in Scotland. 

In addition, Heather Thomson, head of skills, has joined the centre’s senior management team. A member of The Data Lab for three years, Heather will work with Brian and the wider senior management team to extend the reach of the organisation to ensure Scotland is seen as a world leader in AI and data science. 

Brian Hills, interim CEO of The Data Lab, said: “This will be a pivotal year for The Data Lab as we continue to reinforce the power of data and AI to organisations. SME recovery and growth following the pandemic are high on the agenda.

“Accelerating the value of data will undoubtedly be a contributing factor to the business community as part of this recovery, but there remains a lack of understanding on how firms can use data effectively. We will be looking at new ways that we can empower the sector to realise how data science and AI could contribute, while also opening up opportunities for growth.”

Heather Thomson, head of skills at The Data Lab said: “The data skills gap feels like a significant hurdle to overcome for academia and business. However, there are many routes and pillars of support available for individuals and organisations to understand what they can do to better use data. Joining The Data Lab senior management team will put addressing this gap at the forefront of the centre’s growth strategy.” 

The refresh of The Data Lab’s management team will play into the innovation centre’s plans to further scale the reach of services and programmes being implemented. This includes enhancements to the Data Lab Community – an online platform which launched in September 2021 and which is designed to contribute to Scotland’s economic and social recovery in a post-pandemic and increasingly digital world. The community now has over 900 members from over 25 countries regularly contributing and collaborating. 

Hills added: “Over the last year we have seen the launch of several exciting programmes, however, the success of The Data Lab Community has been extraordinary bringing together individuals and organisations with a passion and interest in data and AI to share news, ideas and jobs so everyone can evolve. I see this continuing to grow and feeding into our growth strategy.”

The Data Lab is in the process of appointing a permanent CEO and will announce the appointment in due course.