Data-Driven Innovation programme launched

Data-Driven Innovation programme launched

The University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University have launched the Data-Driven Innovation programme of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, and Edinburgh Innovations will play a key role in the ambitious plan to transform the region into the data capital of Europe.

The £661m Data-Driven Innovation programme is a key part of the recently announced City Region Deal. It aims to train 100,000 people in data skills over the next decade, from computer science specialists to traditional jobs that will increasingly use data.

Edinburgh Innovations will play a key role in driving the expansion of University partnerships with commercial and public sector organisations, the delivery of executive education programmes and an increase in company formation.

Digital skills gap

It is estimated that Scotland needs around 13,000 extra workers each year with data skills as the workplace is transformed. The Scottish Government’s Digital Strategy, published in 2017, included plans to tackle this digital skills gap while growing the Scottish economy.

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. The region’s supercomputing capabilities will also be strengthened with investment in a data analysis facility, which will help 1,000 organisations use data to innovate within their sectors.

“This exciting project – backed by £270m of UK government investment – will ensure that the UK leads the world in technologies of the future and benefits from the economic growth opportunities this brings. 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.”

– David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland

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. Welcoming his new role, Jarmo Eskelinen said:
“Data is the new soil, and collaboration the seeds. The Data-Driven Innovation initiative is unique in its ambition and scale. It’s been designed to reach out to the whole City Region, so we can develop and test new services to meet the needs of our citizens.

“I am extremely honoured to join the programme team and have the chance to collaborate with and learn from the world-leading experts of the two Universities. I look forward to helping a diverse range of organisations benefit from the fast-developing field of data-driven innovation.”

The £1.3bn Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal was announced by the Prime Minister and First Minister at the University of Edinburgh on 7 August. It aims to drive growth for everyone across the area and includes investment in transport, housing, culture and skills and employability.

“The University’s strengths in data science have been driving innovation in the public and private sectors, for the past decade and more, through our research and the skills our graduates bring into the regional economy. 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.


“So we are working not just in our universities, but also with schools, colleges and businesses so people have the opportunities to develop data skills across their life-course. This could include young people about to enter the workforce, women returning after career breaks, or people looking to reskill in mid-career. We know that data-driven innovation will bring economic growth – we want that growth to be inclusive and open to all.”


– Professor Charlie Jeffery, Senior Vice Principal, University of Edinburgh

Related links

Data-Driven Innovation

City Region Deal

May and Sturgeon visit University to sign City Region Deal

May and Sturgeon visit University to sign City Region Deal

Prime Minister Theresa May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have visited the University to formally agree the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

Mrs May and Ms Sturgeon signed the deal at the University’s Bayes Centre, at an event that highlighted data science expertise at the University.

Supporting development

The £1.3 billion investment is designed to accelerate productivity and inclusive growth through the funding of infrastructure, skills training and innovation.

The University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University are partnering to deliver the City Region Deal’s data-driven innovation programme. This aims to increase the contribution of research, data analytics expertise and graduate skills to the region’s economy.

Edinburgh Innovations role

Edinburgh Innovations will play a key role in driving the expansion of University partnerships with commercial and public sector organisations, the delivery of executive education programmes and an increase in company formation.

“I am extremely proud of the role our University has played in helping to develop a City Region Deal that has aligned our unique strengths with the potential for wider regional growth.


“There is tremendous enthusiasm among the University’s staff to use our world-leading research expertise in a range of projects that will tackle the various social and economic challenges in south-east Scotland, and we look forward to working with partners in government and industry to address those needs.


“The City Region Deal also offers an exciting opportunity for greater interdisciplinary working between our academic schools and colleges, delivering insights from new areas of research and allowing us to take the lead in the emerging field of data innovation.”


– Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Edinburgh


Data innovation hubs

Over the next decade, five data innovation hubs at the University – the Bayes Centre, Edinburgh Futures Institute, Usher Institute, Easter Bush and, with Heriot-Watt University, the National Robotarium – will use high-speed data analytics to meet industry and societal challenges.

The UK and Scottish Governments, and regional partners, are investing in the city region over 10 years across transport, housing, culture, skills and employability and innovation.

The regional partners include the six local authorities of Edinburgh, Midlothian, East Lothian, West Lothian, Fife and the Scottish Borders, plus universities and colleges in the region.

Related links

Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal
Bayes Centre
Edinburgh Futures Institute
Usher Institute
Easter Bush
National Robotarium

Design partners bring digital future to festival crowds

Design partners bring digital future to festival crowds

Edinburgh’s festival-goers are trying out digital innovations developed by a partnership between Tesco Bank and University of Edinburgh students and academics.

Data Pipe Dreams: Glimpse of the Near Future is an interactive pavilion of the Centre for Design Informatics at the University, open throughout August and free to visit on Edinburgh’s George Street.

Tesco Bank collaboration

Three prototypes featured in the pavilion are the result of Project Mercury, a unique collaboration between the Centre of Design Informatics and Tesco Bank designed to explore fintech, develop talent and foster innovation and creative thinking.

‘deedit’ encourages locals and visitors to carry out small acts of kindness, such as picking up litter, buying a sandwich for a stranger or giving directions. Users are encouraged to record their activity via the ‘deedit’ app or website and are shown how their deeds have helped to impact on bigger, positive social change.

‘Lens’ allows visitors to take part in a game that highlights how their personal data – such as Facebook profile or Amazon purchases – might influence their success during a fictional job application.

‘Tess’ lets visitors see what could happen if financial service organisations used artificial intelligence and machine learning to help improve customers’ financial wellbeing. The conceptual device uses lighting effects – such as different colours and levels of brightness – to indicate the health of a customer’s spending habits.

Fintech co-designs

Project Mercury has been running for the past year. Through a series of workshops, lectures and internships, University students and academics have worked in partnership with Tesco Bank’s digital and design-practice department to explore the possibilities of emerging digital technologies, such as blockchain.

“One of the challenges we face is helping people understand the impact new data technologies will have on their lives. The partnership with Tesco Bank has been a fantastic help. Co-designing imaginative, human-centred experiences with the financial sector here in Edinburgh demonstrates that the city is becoming a world leader in fintech design.”


– Chris Speed, Director of the Centre for Design Informatics, University of Edinburgh

The Project Mercury partnership was facilitated by Edinburgh Innovations.

Early discussions soon developed into a relationship between the University and Tesco Bank staff involving 12 students and more than 20 multidisciplinary academics.

Executive education

Tesco Bank staff worked with both students and researchers on the three Data Pipe Dreams projects, while University staff provided an executive education programme, visiting Tesco Bank on a weekly basis for both lectures and ‘deep dive’ workshops in fields including fintech and digital societies.

Internships have taken place in both directions – University staff working at Tesco Bank, and Tesco Bank staff working at the University.

“Working with the University has provided a range of exciting development opportunities for our colleagues. Participants in Project Mercury have explored ways in which we can harness developments in data technologies and how these could be used to help deliver better services for our customers. This partnership demonstrates our commitment to talent development, innovation and the exploration of new and emerging technologies.”


– Grant Bourbousson, Digital Director, Tesco Bank

Related links

BBC coverage

University news

Design Informatics


Trio of RSE Unlocking Ambition Fellows

Trio of RSE Unlocking Ambition Fellows

Three Edinburgh Innovations clients have been appointed as inaugural Royal Society of Edinburgh Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellows.

Colin Campbell, Pooja Jain and Cavid Nadirov were among the first 20 fellows announced by Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills Jamie Hepburn MSP.

The Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellows will be funded by the RSE for a year and will receive a package of business development support. They will be hosted by Edinburgh Innovations.

‘Appetite for growth’

Announcing the new fellows at a ceremony at the RSE, Mr Hepburn said: “Applications for Unlocking Ambition opened in March this year and only three months later, with the addition of the RSE Enterprise Fellowship entrants, this first cohort is ready to begin its journey.

“This demonstrates the appetite for growth and the innovation potential of businesses in, or wishing to locate in, Scotland.”

The three RSE Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellows to be hosted by Edinburgh Innovations are:

  • Colin Campbell, founder of Unlocking Potential, a cloud-based impact evaluation and management tool that measures social capital to demonstrate delivery against stated targets and outcomes.
  • Pooja Jain, founder of CogniHealth, which aims to transform the way both family and professional carers look after people with dementia at home. Its first product, CogniCare, is an app for carers, enabling personalised dementia care. Jain studied at Edinburgh for both her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences and her MSc in Integrative Neuroscience.
  • Cavid Nadirov, founder of GetGuided, an innovative platform helping travel business, such as hotels, travel agencies and event organisers, find and book local, unique tours and experiences provided by verified suppliers, or instantly book local guides for custom tours. Nadirov studied MSc Human Resources Management at the University of Edinburgh in 2014-15.

“Congratulations to our talented entrepreneurs on both the recognition and the opportunities that come with these Fellowships.


“Colin, Pooja and Cavid all have unique propositions and it’s been our privilege to work with them to help them reach this stage. We look forward to continuing to support them on their journey.”


Dr George Baxter, Chief Executive Officer, Edinburgh Innovations

Challenge fund

The 20 fellowships for early-stage startups hosted by research institutes are part of the wider Scotland CAN DO Unlocking Ambition Challenge, which also supports 20 longer-established SMEs to scale up their operations, in a parallel scheme run by Scottish Enterprise.

In mid-June, Edinburgh Innovations client Douglas Martin, founder of MiAlgae, joined the first cohort of 20 SMEs in the Unlocking Ambition Challenge.

The £4 million Unlocking Ambition Challenge fund, created by the Scottish Government, will support entrepreneurs chosen for their individual potential, the quality of their ideas and the contribution they can make to the Scottish economy and wider society.

Related links

RSE Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellowship Programme

Scotland CAN DO Unlocking Ambition Challenge

Startups triumph at Scottish EDGE

Startups triumph at Scottish EDGE

Edinburgh Innovations clients have scooped the biggest awards at round 12 of Scottish EDGE, the UK’s largest entrepreneurship funding competition.

Dr Kate Cameron, founder and CEO of Cytochroma, won the Higgs EDGE prize for businesses focused on science, technology and engineering, and was awarded £150,000, the maximum possible for the Higgs prize.

Toxicology test

Cytochroma offers a low-cost, high-speed drug toxicology testing service using stem-cell-derived liver cells.

Dr Cameron is currently a Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellow, hosted by Edinburgh Innovations and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

“It is an exciting time for Cytochroma. Winning this money will enable me to build and expand my company, carry out essential validation studies and hopefully attract significant customers and investment.


“I have received incredible support and access to an array of experts at Edinburgh Innovations. The team have provided fantastic advice and helped me develop a strong business plan, which has been essential to my success.”


– Dr Kate Cameron

Dr Cameron was presented with her award by Founder, Chairman and CEO of Clyde Blowers, Jim McColl.

Announcing the award, Scottish EDGE CEO Evelyn McDonald said: “Cytochroma impressed the judging panel with their market knowledge, the advisory team they have established and the entrepreneurial leader. Cytochroma’s ground-breaking liver-based stem cell process has the opportunity to be transformational in medical research.”

Feed sector upstart

Douglas Martin, founder of MiAlgae, took the top prize in the main Scottish EDGE competition, with an award of £100,000.

MiAlgae uses the co-products of the whisky industry to produce omega-3-rich microalgae that promises to revolutionise the animal and fish feed sectors. Martin has been supported by LAUNCH.ed since 2016 when he was studying for an MSc in Biology and Biotechnology.

Martin was presented with his award by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP.

MiAglae recently attracted seed investment of £500,000, and was recently named Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

PhD pioneers

Two further LAUNCH.ed clients were successful in the awards.

Inrobin, a data-driven insurance platform for industrial assets founded by School of Law PhD student Josep Guerra, won £10,000 in the Wild Card EDGE competition.

The Turing Trust, a social enterprise that supplies refurbished IT equipment and training to schools in sub-Saharan Africa, received a £10,000 award in the Young EDGE category. The trust was established by International Development PhD student James Turing, the great-nephew of renowned computer scientist Alan Turing.


Related links

Scottish EDGE




The Turing Trust