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DATA & AI


Te Data Lab is helping startups develop cutting-edge tech – fit for the pandemic


Building Scotland’s reputation on the world stage for data and AI


BY GILLIAN DOCHERTY


It’s been a difficult year for every aspect of our society, with the wider implications of the Covid-19 pandemic acutely felt by our business community. However, it’s been inspiring to see the level of innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the past 12 months as SMEs pivoted to diversify their offerings, create businesses with purpose, and support their communities. At Te Data Lab, we believe


Scotland can lead the world to a future where data powers scientific progress, economic prosperity and social good, and everything we do aims to champion the use of data and artificial intelligence (AI). From startups to large firms, we want to foster innovation and, despite the pandemic and the resulting lock- down periods, we’re pleased to have been able to support many businesses on their journey. Our External Funding Service,


which aids Scottish companies in accessing available grant funding


has, to date, supported more than 65 businesses to secure £21m in data-related innovation funding. Most recently, Data Innovation. AI was granted funding through Innovate UK’s Sustainable In- novation Fund, after enlisting our services. Tis enabled it to further


develop its WorkSafeAI (see case study), a tool created to inform the design and construction of facilities to ensure the health and wellbeing of those using it whilst supporting the sustainable long-term use of buildings - even in the event of a future epidemic or pandemic. Teir work reflects an important development in building planning, which may one day help to reduce the impact of potential lockdowns linked to future pandemics.


Through TORCH, our business advisory offering which helps business leaders build on the data foundations already established by their company, we have sup- ported 16 new projects including establishing an integrated data


8 | FUTURESCOT | SPRING 2021


platform for historical real estate platform Grand Bequest, and working with Sea Spyder to de- velop an evidence-based pricing system for Scotch whisky. Yet, the wider adoption of data


and AI in business relies on more than a heightened awareness and understanding of its value – we need to facilitate an increase in the number of people who know how to work with it. Perhaps the most important way we can foster continued innovation in the sec- tor is to support and create learn- ing opportunities for students. Despite social distancing im-


pacting in-person lectures, we’re proud to have continued our work with Scottish universities to deliver 29 courses through Te Data Lab MSc Programme. Our student cohort has been resil-


ient in the face of this adversity, continuing their studies online, with around 160 students set to graduate later this year. Our team worked closely with recruitment agency MBN Solutions to secure 33 remote placement opportuni- ties with a number of businesses in Scotland last summer, covering sectors including healthcare, oil and gas, and service provision, and it’s been great to see the positive feedback from companies that may now consider integrat- ing data into their day-to-day operations. Looking ahead to the future,


these students will play an impor- tant role in the wider adoption of data and AI skills in the busi- ness community, as companies increasingly recognise their value, offering smarter, more targeted


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