Doing Data Better conference: UK Government backs innovation for recovery

There can be few more crucial subjects than recovering from the coronavirus crisis, preparing for future pandemics, promoting social inclusion and combating climate change when it comes to the global issues facing us today.

Iain Stewart. Picture: John Devlin
Iain Stewart. Picture: John Devlin

We need to use every weapon at our disposal to meet these hugely demanding challenges.

The most up-to-date and innovative technologies must be harnessed to overcome them.

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That’s why it is so heartening to see some of our brightest and best researchers exploiting the most up-to-date expertise in data to confront the great tasks of our age.

The imaginative and hugely effective research championed during The Scotsman’s Doing Data Better conference will play a vital role in the months and years to come.

The conference, a joint venture with the Data Driven Innovation (DDI) initiative, offered a compelling insight into how data can be used to the benefit of all.

It is this groundbreaking work which is rightfully earning Edinburgh the accolade of data capital of Europe.

As a UK government we are delighted to be making a major investment in five DDI hubs at Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt universities.

These hubs are spawning so much of the great work which will deliver so much – not just in terms of major technological break-throughs but also in terms of creating hundreds of high-end jobs through spin-out industries.

The UK government has injected £270 million in the DDI hubs as part of its investment in the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

The conference showcased some great examples of how the application of data can benefit lives, livelihoods and the planet.

Those taking part in the conference learned of how data gathered by satellites can monitor and fight against deforestation, preventing further environmental calamities.

Other contributors focussed on building back better after the pandemic, including imaginative ways of using technology to stimulate the recovery of the tourism industry.

And other experts informed delegates of the ways data can be used to unlock the secrets of and prevent future pandemics.

The world-leading renewables revolution being pioneered on Orkney through Heriot-Watt’s Islands Centre for Net Zero also featured, as did the way data can be used to create financial and social inclusion.

This research is a further illustration of the pioneering approach championed by the Edinburgh and South East Scotland deal.

The UK and Scottish governments are each investing £300m in the deal. By working with six local authorities and other partners, the deal totals £1.3 billion and is anticipated to generate more than £5bn of Gross Value Added (GVA) over its 15-year lifespan.

The UK government has committed more than £1.5bn in 12 deals covering all of Scotland.

Together with our partners including universities, the Scottish Government and local authorities, these deals are creating jobs, stimulating industry and improving infrastructure and helping us emerge from the dark days of Covid-19.

- Iain Stewart MP, Scotland Office minister

A digital version of the full conference report can be found here.