The burgeoning arena of “big data” could see Scotland become a world leader in analytics, according to the head of the national data innovation centre.
Data Lab chief executive Gillian Docherty said Scotland boasts a “unique ecosystem” to become a global centre for data science, but industry and academia must work together to ensure that a shortage of skills does not stifle growth.
Speaking ahead of a major networking event to be held in Edinburgh next month, Docherty said: “Big data is worth £216 million to the UK and could be responsible for 58,000 jobs by next year. Scotland is home to 11 of the UK’s 24 postgraduate data science courses as well as a very healthy tech sector, meaning that we are in an ideal position to become a global hub, in turn seeing considerable economic benefit.
“This is a one off opportunity and there is a risk that others could take the lead if we do not join forces as a community to ensure we have a healthy and consistent talent pipeline.”
Data Lab has teamed up with youth entrepreneurship organisation WeAreTheFuture and MBN Solutions, the specialist data science recruiter, to launch Data Talent Scotland, a “collider event” aimed at building links between industry and academia as well as helping up-and-coming data scientists learn about the opportunities available in Scotland. About 250 postgraduate data science students and other industry figures are expected to attend, while representatives from Talent Scotland, part of Scottish Enterprise, will be on hand to provide international students with information on visas and immigration issues.
The event, to be held at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms on 16 March, is sponsored by Barrachd, the data analytics specialist that was acquired by outsourcing giant Capita last year.
Barrachd sales director Grant Smith said: “We understand the advantages to business of removing data from silos and having a ‘big picture’ view. Similarly we need to remove any barriers preventing new talent joining our industry.
“It’s important that we are promoting the opportunities available to graduates to encourage them to choose this career path and – as an industry – we must commit to nurturing and developing them.”
Scotland is currently home to 11 Masters level courses in data science, with that figure set to rise to 15 later this year. Courses cover a range of sectors, including cyber-security, finance and oil and gas, and include full- and part-time and distance learning options.
Dave Robertson, head of the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Now is a really exciting time to be involved in data science in Scotland and the key to making it work for the future is collaboration between industry, academia and the public sector.
“This event will help to build closer links between all three as well as giving students exposure to the business world. It is also a great opportunity to showcase the collective strength of data science in our universities and encourage partnerships between our courses and industry.”