COMPANIES and public bodies can now get help to bring the 21st century’s information overload into focus to help them make money and improve public services.
The Data Lab, a new service established with an £11.3 million grant from the Scottish Funding Council, is designed to pinpoint the relevant data and applications that companies need from the endless resources now available online.
A Brechin-based agricultural company, SoilEssentials, was able to cut fuel, pesticides, fertilisers and CO2 emissions while increasing crop yields through utilising satellite imagery, historical yield data, soil sensors, global position and ordinance survey data.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said this kind of approach demonstrates how access to the right data can improve public policy challenges and services, and make businesses an extra £17 billion.
Mr Swinney said: “This new innovation centre will transform the nature of collaboration between industry, public sector and academic partners providing new ways for business to benefit from the expertise within Scotland’s world-leading university sector.
“Research has identified approximately £17 billion of business benefits to the thousands of companies in Scotland, the majority of them SMEs, who provide our best opportunity for economic growth.
“This centre will also help us to use data to address key public policy challenges and improve our public services.
“I am pleased to announce that we will be working with the Data Lab, and other partners, to launch a public policy challenge to identify projects which can harness the power of data to reduce inequalities, enhance prevention and enable civic participation.”
Neil Logan, chairman of The Data Lab and chief technology officer at Lockheed Martin BTS, said: “The Data Lab aims to unlock the value of our world-leading academic institutions and release the potential of our commercial sector in domestic and international markets.
“Along these lines, it’s immensely encouraging that we are at day one and we’re already funding real projects with real money.
“We look forward to funding many more and to establishing Scotland’s place at the head of data science development.”
The Technology Advisory Group (TAG) also publishes a data action plan, facilitated by Scottish Enterprise, to help businesses navigate the “worldwide data revolution”.
Laurence Ward, chair of the Technology Advisory Group and senior partner Scotland at CMS Cameron McKenna, commented: “The Data Opportunity Action Plan is a roadmap for Scotland to embrace and take advantage of ‘big data’ opportunities to help fuel our economic growth.
“The plan sets out our strategic objectives, priorities and economic development goals that will drive and complement the activities of The Data Lab.
“We know that companies using advanced data analytics are twice as likely to be sector leaders and are likely to make decisions five times faster than their competitors, providing real-time competitive advantage.
“I want to encourage every company in Scotland to examine how it can use data more effectively to generate business growth.”