The Data Lab wins £13.5m to drive innovation

Gillian Docherty, CEO of The Data Lab: 'We're proud of the impact The Data Lab has had on Scottish business and innovation communities'. Picture: Jane Barlow
Gillian Docherty, CEO of The Data Lab: 'We're proud of the impact The Data Lab has had on Scottish business and innovation communities'. Picture: Jane Barlow
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Data innovation centre The Data Lab has secured up to £13.5 million in funding to support projects across Scotland and help generate new jobs.

Based in Edinburgh, the non-profit organisation said the financial boost will allow it to “improve data innovation’s economic impact on Scotland”, create employment opportunities and enhance the country’s global reputation.

As part of its “Phase 2” activity, it expects to invest £18.9m in more than 100 new data-driven innovation projects.

The funding package consists of up to £9.5m from the Scottish Funding Council, £2.5m from Scottish Enterprise, £1m from the Scottish Government’s Digital Directorate and £500,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The funding will officially begin in April and run for five years.

Since its launch in 2014, The Data Lab has used its initial round of funding from the Scottish Funding Council to attract and develop data talent in Scotland, create and run educational programmes and events, and provide financial backing to Scottish innovation projects.

To date, it has provided some £2.4m to 66 projects, with the projects’ total value reaching £6.3m.

These include supporting artificial intelligence firm Emotech to develop “Olly”, the world’s first robot with personality, and The Albyn Housing Society and Carbon Dynamics “FIT Home” initiative to create housing solutions which enable people to live independently for longer.

Gillian Docherty, CEO of The Data Lab, said: “We’re proud of the impact The Data Lab has had on Scottish business and innovation communities over the last four years and are pleased to receive further backing from the Scottish Government.

“The continuation of our work will help develop a strong data science community and accelerate Scotland’s economic growth.

“The success we’ve had means we’re in a great position to continue to collaborate with the Scottish and international community on data science and artificial intelligence innovation during ‘Phase 2’.”

In March, The Data Lab oversaw DataFest18, a week-long Scottish festival involving 3,000 people and 50 events.

Speaking ahead of his announcement during today’s DataFest19 launch event in Edinburgh, MSP Richard Lochhead said data innovation funding so far had produced “a transformational effect” on Scotland’s economy.

Lochhead, minister for further education, higher education and science, said: “Scottish universities excel in data science.

“Together with the country’s rich data resources and advanced infrastructure, this provides the ideal environment for The Data Lab to thrive, benefiting industry, the third sector and public services.”

He estimated a £20bn data opportunity for Scotland’s economy by 2020.