Hundreds of jobs in pipeline as button pressed on capital AI hub

Scotland's first artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain accelerator is to be launched in Edinburgh in a move expected to create almost 400 jobs.

Experts say we are on the cusp of an AI and blockchain revolution. Picture: Contributed
Experts say we are on the cusp of an AI and blockchain revolution. Picture: Contributed

In an announcement made by Prime Minister Theresa May, the University of Edinburgh and technology support platform Wayra UK are joining forces to set up the initiative to support 20 start-ups a year from September.

Wayra UK, part of Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica, already runs five UK accelerator programmes but the latest launch is its first in Scotland. Supported by Scottish Enterprise, the accelerator will help spin-outs and start-ups to scale up.

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The announcement comes ahead of finalisation of the £1.1 billion Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal which aims to establish the region as the data capital of Europe.

Dave Robertson, head of the college of science and engineering at the University of Edinburgh, said “Our vision is to become the leading AI and blockchain accelerator in Europe, supporting the best start-ups to scale globally and we see this partnership as a valuable step to realising that aim.”

Robertson added the “search is on for the most innovative data-driven start-ups to join the programme”.

Wayra UK director Gary Stewart said AI and blockchain “will change the way that we all live and work” and that the accelerator will find and support the entrepreneurs “that will define our collective future”.

The University of Edinburgh has a track record in creating high-value tech-based businesses and its Informatics Ventures programme, launched in 2008, is behind Engage Invest Exploit (EIE), Scotland’s technology investor showcase which annually connects 60 Scottish tech firms with potential investors, partners and customers.

Through the City Region Deal, the university is strengthening its capability in data-driven research and innovation through a number of significant investments including the opening of the new Bayes Centre this year.

The centre, which will focus on data science and technology, sits alongside the School of Informatics which is globally recognised for data management, artificial intelligence, theoretical computer science, computational linguistics, systems architectures and bioinformatics.

The recent UK Tech Nation Report revealed that 363 start-ups were set up in Edinburgh last year, many of them are focussed on AI.

In the past six years, Wayra UK has supported more than 200 British and Irish start-ups that have raised over £150 million in funding and entered into almost £10m worth of contracts with Telefonica.

Wayra UK provides funding, acceleration and pre-acceleration services to start-ups, with the aim of helping promote growth, improve society and increase innovation. Its services include co-working spaces, connectivity and mentoring.