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Edinburgh Universities to Spearhead Digital Skills Initiative

Ross Kelly


Data-Driven Innovation initiative

The University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University will work together to train 100,000 people in data skills and help 1,000 organisations through data.

The University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University have launched a major initiative to tackle the growing digital skills gap across south-east Scotland. Plans laid out by the two institutions could help to further develop Edinburgh as a European data hub.

Together, the two universities will increase the provision of data science teaching for their students, and support schools and colleges across the region to provide digital skills teaching and training.

Data-Driven Innovation

The £661 million Data-Driven Innovation initiative is a key component of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, which was formally announced in August

The £1.3bn deal was announced by Prime Minister Theresa May and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the University of Edinburgh and aims to drive growth across the area. Transport, housing, culture, skills and employability all are prominent features within the City Region Deal.

Over the next decade, the government said it aims to train more than 100,000 people in data skills. Computer science specialist roles could be created through the initiative, while traditional roles that increasingly rely on data will be enhanced.

Supercomputing capabilities in the South East region will also be strengthened through investment in a data analysis facility. It is hoped that this will help more than 1,000 organisations use data to innovate within their respective sectors and fuel digital transformation.

Keeping Pace with Change

David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland says the initiative will help to ensure that the UK continues to forge a reputation as a global data innovation hub.

“This exciting project, backed by £270 million of UK Government investment,” he said. “Will ensure that the UK leads the world in technologies of the future and benefits from the economic growth opportunities this brings.”

Mundell added that the initiative is a key goal of the UK Government’s Modern Industrial Strategy, which aims to cultivate British industries and prepare the country for an ever-changing global economy.

He said: “By giving 100,000 people, and 1,000 companies, the skills and capability they need to drive innovation through big data and artificial intelligence, this partnership working will help maximise the potential of these sectors – a key goal of the UK Government’s Modern Industrial Strategy.”

Jarmo Eskelinen has been appointed to lead the Data-Driven Innovation initiative. He comes to Edinburgh from his previous role as Chief Innovation and Technology Officer of the London-based Future Cities Catapult initiative.

Enabling Innovation

Professor Charlie Jeffery, Senior Vice Principal at the University of Edinburgh said the City Region Deal will allow educational institutions in the region to drive innovation and build upon current efforts.

The University’s strengths in data science have been driving innovation in the public and private sectors for the past decade and more,” he commented.

“The City Region Deal will now give us the capacity to do much more across a wider range of sectors, including healthcare, robotics and fintech. But perhaps the most important part of the Deal is our commitment to ensure people in the region can build the skills to flourish in the data-driven economy.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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