David Smith: collaboration key for Scotland's data growth

Scotland is still on a journey towards widespread adoption of data-driven innovation, but the facts are simple. It is data that will drive our next economic revolution '“ one that represents a £20-billion opportunity for Scotland over the next five years.

David Smith of Scottish Enterprise. Picture: TSPL
David Smith of Scottish Enterprise. Picture: TSPL

Through the Data Driven Innovation Programme, led by the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University, we want to secure Edinburgh’s place as the data capital of Europe. We do this by being bold and ambitious, and focusing on talent, research, data adoption, and entrepreneurship.

We are already producing globally successful data-driven businesses, thanks to Scotland’s world-class academic capability and vibrant industry cluster. And it is the collaboration between industry, academia and the public sector that will create an unbeatable environment for data innovation to flourish.

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Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International work to support Scottish businesses to capitalise on data to drive productivity and business growth and to attract global investors.

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Data set to provide £20bn boost to Scotland's economy

To do this we need to be focused and fearless in our objectives. We need our companies to use data to better understand the markets they serve. And to develop new innovative business models, driven by insight from data, that disrupt markets and gain competitive advantage.

Data is increasingly impacting on all areas of business, and businesses who choose not to embrace this change will find it increasingly difficult to compete. So, our role is to enable Scottish companies to develop a culture which promotes business growth through data driven innovation, informed by well-evidenced insight from data.

It is our strong relationships with our data partners that will ensure businesses have access to the right advice and practical assistance to help them use data effectively.

The opportunities that the data revolution opens up changes everything. Every area of human endeavour will feel the impact.

Scotland starts with several advantages, and if we are at the forefront of embracing this change, Scottish businesses will be best placed to survive, thrive and grow. Our commitment to a fairer and more inclusive society will ensure the benefits of data improve public services and healthcare.

We continue to invest in the infrastructure and support ecosystem that will enable future success.

Edinburgh already plays host to a world-class start-up scene and Scotland is fast becoming a leading data science hotspot.

More than £600 million of investment will deliver the Data Driven Innovation Programme through five dedicated data innovation hubs. These are designed to include space for collaborative research with industry partners, and incubation space for start-up and scale-up businesses.

Other key investments include the Innovation Centre Programme, one of which, The Data Lab, has secured £13.5 million of funding over the next five years to continue its mission to deliver value through data. It does this by building the data community, supporting collaborative innovation projects and fostering the development of the talent and skills that we’ll depend on to make the data revolution possible.

It is because of the data ecosystem we’ve created across Scotland that a growing number of companies have chosen th country as a business location. Scotland’s supportive investment environment means that investors in data will have access to the very best connections and support, that will make their data business a success.

Two Scottish founded data companies achieved unicorn status –a testament to the impact the country’s data eco-system already has on business success.

Our commitment to developing Scottish skills and talent is creating a pipeline of world-beating data scientists and engineers, that is the powerhouse driving business success here. We have the UK’s leading research university in data sciences and informatics in the University of Edinburgh and the largest proportion of all data science post-graduate courses in the UK.

In the next ten years, Scotland’s Data Driven Innovation Programme aims to have supported 100,000 people to gain a data qualification. And it will be companies that understand the importance of these skills, and encourage the development of new and existing talent within their organisations, who will secure competitive advantage.

I’m proud to be playing a part in advancing Scotland’s exciting data-driven economy.”

David Smith is a senior director at Scottish Enterprise