Edinburgh has a real chance to become Data Capital of Europe with expertise like this – Angus Robertson MSP

Edinburgh is a collection of amazing communities. Its original centre and incorporated villages retain their charm, and Edinburgh residents are networked and connected in a myriad of ways.

By Angus Robertson
Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 4:55 am
Gillian Docherty is chief executive of the Data Lab (Picture: John Devlin)
Gillian Docherty is chief executive of the Data Lab (Picture: John Devlin)

As a new local representative, I have visited artists’ collectives, community councils, residents’ associations, academic and research centres, business communities, general interest groups and beyond. It is amazing to see people coming together to advance shared aims, or just enjoy themselves with like-minded folk.

Yet in-person Edinburgh-focused communities are not the only ones to sit in our Capital. Last week, the Data Lab launched a new digital community to enable data and AI professionals and enthusiasts to connect, develop, learn and collaborate.

For those unfamiliar, the Data Lab – based in the Bayes Centre I visited a few weeks ago – was founded in 2014 as part of Scotland’s Innovation Centres programme. With a network of over 1,500 companies, public sector organisations, universities, and data experts, they aim to make Scotland the global leader in data innovation.

Heading up the Data Lab is chief executive Gillian Docherty OBE. Gillian is known and consulted the world over on matters of data innovation and is a passionate advocate for Scotland and the transformative power that innovative and ethical use of data can have on our society. I was privileged to meet her last week and hear about the Data Lab’s successes.

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The Big Interview: Gillian Docherty, CEO of The Data Lab

Since 2014, they have helped a huge number of people develop their data talents through degrees and skills training. Their flagship MSc has trained 850 students – and counting – who have gone on to contribute to the fields of digital technologies, energy and utilities, financial services, public sector, healthcare, urban planning and beyond.

The Data Lab has an in-house team of data analysts who have helped turn data-driven ideas into mind-blowingly impressive companies.

One of these Edinburgh-based firms, Global Surface Intelligence, is a world-leader that uses satellite mapping to precisely measure land use, forestry, crop growth and changing environments. The information gathered can transform energy usage, crop-growing efficiency, optimising renewable energy capture and many other useful insights.

The global reach of the Data Lab stretches further still, having partnered with the Scottish government, Edinburgh University’s data-driven innovation programme and the UN agency Unicef to develop the world-leading Data for Children programme. This project creates impact collaborations which use data to help improve outcomes for children worldwide.

As you can see, the Data Lab is making a fantastic contribution to the data community in Scotland and beyond, and it is a key component in the aim to make Edinburgh the Data Capital of Europe.

So, having engaged with and helped so many in the data world, the new Data Lab Community is sure to be an exciting platform where people can share ideas; access tools, knowledge and other content; seek and offer mentoring help; connect with others working in similar fields; and find the latest job postings the world over.

If you are in the data, AI and digital field, I strongly encourage you to sign up via the Data Lab website and enjoy not only a brilliant new platform but being part of one of the communities that make up our offline and online world.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary

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