Peter Mathieson: city region deal points to new direction of travel

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL
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The Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal gives The University of Edinburgh the opportunity to be relevant to the whole population of the city and wider region and not just those who have attended or have a connection to our institution.

It is estimated that 50 per cent of society will engage with a university at some point in their lives but the challenge for us is to be relevant to the other half. The City Deal allows us to re-engage with our civic tradition and deliver tangible benefits to the wider population.

I want The University of Edinburgh to be for all of the city’s citizens and for them to see activities going on here that they can see value in. We are spending public money here and we have got to be relevant to taxpayers.

The collaborative nature of the City Deal is something to be celebrated. The project makes working together more systematic as its whole ethos is based around a collaborative approach. It is the way universities need to work in the future.

The fact that several universities are involved, along with colleges, schools and community groups, has to be applauded.

The linkage between universities and business is not as systematic at present as it needs to be, but the City Deal is a message that The University of Edinburgh is open for business.

The deal engages with small and large businesses and we have found that they are coming to us to find out how they can get involved.

The approach we are taking with data is comprehensive and covers a range of fields beyond the typical areas of engineering and computer science.

It is pleasing to see data science being applied to health, as an aging population is one of the biggest challenges we all face. Data science will allow us to manage age-related conditions and tackle chronic disease.

Due to its size, Scotland is ideal for testing solutions to problems that can be solved by data. Tests carried out here can then be applied to much larger populations.

We think the City Deal project is unique and nowhere else has anything similar in terms of data-driven innovation.

I cannot think of another project on this scale where a university has been as central in terms of concept and application as this one.

There is a growing sense of engagement and excitement amongst university staff as people start to see the relevance of the City Deal to their own area of interest. They see that there are projects they can launch now that would have been more difficult previously.

I don’t see City Deal as an end in itself, more as a helpful stimulus to what we want to do.

It sets an important direction of travel for us.

Peter Mathieson is Principal of the University of Edinburgh