City Region Deal investment in world-leading research at University of Edinburgh set to be approved

A world-leading teaching and research institute at the University of Edinburgh is aiming to help hundreds of organisations across the region’s private, public and third sectors, with almost £60m in Government funding from the City Region Deal.

The Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal Joint Committee is expected to approve a final business case for the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) at a meeting in the city on Friday (1st March).

Approval will take the total investment in EFI, with additional funding coming from the University and external partners and investors, up to £189m.

EFI, based at the former Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, is one of five Data-Driven Innovation hubs to receive funding as part of the £1.3bn City Region Deal.

Teams of researchers will work with up to 350 partner organisations on a range of topics and themes, including how data-driven innovation can improve public services in the region, the role of artificial intelligence and the ethics of data.

The inclusion of Data-Driven Innovation within the City Region Deal reflects the growing importance of data in the public services, economic growth and social change experienced by millions of people across Edinburgh and South East Scotland.

Ahead of the Joint Committee meeting, Lord Duncan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity – and Leeann Dempster, Chief Executive of Hibernian Football Club, who is Chair of the Regional Enterprise Council which advises the Joint Committee, visited Edinburgh Futures Institute on Thursday 28th February.

The UK Government is investing £55.6 million to fund the EFI as part of the City Region Deal, with additional funding coming from the Scottish Government, Edinburgh University and external partners and investors.

UK Government Minister Lord Duncan, said: “The Edinburgh Futures Institute will make an important contribution to the region – delivering growth, attracting investment and talent, and cementing the UK’s position as a world leader in innovation.

“The many business opportunities and jobs created through the growth in the data economy will be an important contribution to Scotland’s economy. That is why the UK Government is investing £290 million to support the sector in Edinburgh and South East Scotland, as part of our £1.3 billion commitment to Growth Deals across Scotland.”

Infrastructure Secretary, Michael Matheson said: “I am delighted to see the Data Driven Innovation programme take another step forward with the approval of the Edinburgh Futures Institute business case. Using £300 million of Scottish Government investment, the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal is designed to deliver inclusive economic growth, providing opportunities and distributing the benefits fairly across the entire region. I would like to thank the University of Edinburgh for its role within the deal and I look forward to visiting again when the centre is up and running.”

Leeann Dempster, chair of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal Regional Enterprise Council, said: “This business case represents a potential investment of the scale and ambition needed to meet the challenges and opportunities of the data revolution we see happening around us.

“The challenge is to harness the revolution in data, digital and artificial intelligence in ways that benefit people across our region. The opportunity couldn’t be greater. Data-driven innovation can be at the heart of improved public services for everyone and giving people access to new skills, opportunities and careers. Everyone in our region should have a share in economic growth.

“We are seeing an acceleration in City Region Deal activity and I commend all the partners involved in the Deal for working so collaboratively to bring forward this project. It is an exciting example of how such strategic, long-term investment, will improve lives and sustain economic growth that benefits all who live in the region.”

EFI’s Director, Professor Lesley McAra, said that fast moving developments in data, digital and artificial intelligence create both opportunities and challenges for society. Universities therefore have a duty to place their research and teaching in the service of communities, industry and government.

Professor McAra said: “The Edinburgh Futures Institute will work in partnership to co-produce the knowledge, skills and innovation that will enhance inclusion and provide gateways to new and exciting careers for people across the region.

“We aim to ensure that data-driven innovation is carried out with deep regard for its ethical implications and corresponding impact on individuals, communities, and society as a whole.”

EFI will also offer a range of qualifications across arts, humanities and social sciences that incorporate data skills and promote shared learning across traditionally separate academic fields.

It aims to offer flexible, accessible and affordable qualifications, which allow students to study across the life course, at multiple career stages and on and off campus.

One of the largest ever investments made by the University, EFI brings together the arts, humanities and social sciences with data science to drive solution-focused thinking on key societal challenges.

EFI is part of the City Region Deal’s Data-Driven Innovation programme delivered by the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University. Their expertise in data analytics is producing graduate with skills needed to boost the region’s economy and help organisations improve products and services.

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