Building the knowledge economy

Liz McAreavey, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, discusses what data-driven innovation’s place in the City Region Deal means for the region’s businesses

Data-Driven Innovation seems to be the buzz word of the moment. Big Data, data sets, data scientists, all saviours of the modern world. A new era.

Well, it’s good news for our city that we have the University of Edinburgh, which is placed in the top three universities in the world for DDI and that bodes well for our lofty ambitions for Edinburgh to become the data capital of Europe.

This is ground-breaking stuff and has been at the forefront of the South East Scotland City Region deal that was signed in 2018; a deal that is unique in the UK, as it’s not focused on regeneration and infrastructure, but on innovation, data and digital skills. This innovative approach brings its own challenges. City Region Deals are platforms to accelerate economic growth. How can DDI, borne out of university research, and academic excellence create and drive a prosperous economy for the region and the rest of Scotland?

Businesses need to be aware, to be able to access and adopt this new innovation and understand fully what data can do for their businesses in terms of competitive advantage, productivity, international reach and performance. It needs to be simplified and affordable.

No doubt there will be many spin-out companies that will emerge from some very clever ideas. World-class graduates will be hoovered up into digital companies, hot-housed in tech incubators. Some will succeed, big-time, many will fail.

I think the big win for Scotland will be to revolutionise the digital skills and use of data that will future-proof the 99% of the business community that are SMEs. This will require engagement, education, support and also intervention at government level to make this step change. But the rewards will be great.

We can have a digitally skilled workforce that will be the envy of the world. Business will locate and invest in Scotland to access these skills and innovation. As a small nation, a knowledge economy is our future.

The Chamber sees the prize for business and are working in partnership with the University of Edinburgh promoting DDI though our round tables, forums, events and communication channels.

It is still a bit of a mystery, but more and more businesses as seeing the opportunity. We need to all work together in a genuine collaborative eco-system, sharing and supporting and educating the benefits of a data driven economy.

Liz McAreavey, Chief Executive Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce

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