hundreds of jobs will be created in the Capital after the city was chosen as one of Britain’s premier hubs to develop artificial intelligence projects.
A base will be launched out of the University of Edinburgh to house AI and blockchain start-up companies in a £1.6 million investment. As many as 20 firms will be appointed each year from September, creating about 400 jobs.
The start-ups will be based in the university’s Bayes Centre on Marshall Street.
The world-leading data science centre is due to open in the autumn.
The initiative is the first of its kind in Scotland and is a joint partnership between Edinburgh University, Telefonica’s open innovation platform Wayra UK and Scottish Enterprise. Edinburgh is already a hotspot for AI and blockchain startups, with 363 firms having been incorporated in the Capital last year.
Most of the new companies are focused on AI, which has been billed as the industrial sector’s next game-changer.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced the “accelerator” scheme for Edinburgh last night as an appeal was launched to all budding projects looking for funding to get off the ground.
Dave Robertson, head of college of science and engineering at Edinburgh University, said: “Our vision is to become the leading AI and blockchain accelerator in Europe, supporting the best start-ups to scale globally and we see this partnership as a valuable step to realising that aim.
“The search is on for the most innovative data-driven start-ups to join the programme in Edinburgh.”
Blockchains record blocks of information across many computers rather than one central server, which could help reduce the risk of fraud. Gillian Docherty, chief executive of the university’s The Data Lab, said: “The momentum around artificial intelligence is gathering pace massively, so this is a great opportunity. Edinburgh has been ahead of the game on AI and data science for years.
“This accelerator has huge potential to supercharge an already solid economic opportunity for the city and indeed the whole of Scotland.”
The UK government announced in April it was investing £300 million in artificial intelligence research as it seeks to fend off competition from France and Germany and secure its status as Europe’s leading centre for “deep tech”.
Wayra UK has previously partnered with the UK Cabinet Office to support social entrepreneurs.
Director Gary Stewart said: “There’s no doubt that AI and blockchain will change the way that we all live and work. It is, therefore, an honour to work with the world leading University of Edinburgh.”