DDI ‘Building Back Better’ Open Call Awards

Twenty-one data-driven research projects, which include tackling homelessness, tourism recovery and job retention in the football industry, will receive funding as part of the DDI initiative’s ‘Building back better’ open call. 


‘Building Back Better’ Open Call 

DDI have funded projects covering a range of themes, including Smarter Places; Creative and Cultural Recovery; Climate, Food and Sustainability; and Health and Wellbeing. 

The open call is part of Scottish Funding Council Covid-19 Recovery funding to the University of Edinburgh, and has allowed the Data-Driven Innovation initiative to allocate up to £500,000 for small grants to support staff at the University apply data-driven innovation ideas to promote job security, creation and retention within universities and economic and social recovery from the pandemic across the wider Edinburgh and South-East Scotland Region.  

Jarmo Eskelinen, Data-Driven Innovation Director: 

 We see this open call as an opportunity for University of Edinburgh staff to contribute to addressing social and economic challenges that have been presented to local communities and businesses, in the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland city region, by the COVID-19 pandemic. These projects cover activity across five of the DDI Innovation Hubs, with impact of doing data right to be felt throughout the region. The DDI programme is the University’s key deliverable as a partner in the City Region Deal”. 


Successful awards of the DDI ‘Building Back Better’ : 

Fiona Cuthill

Usher Institute / Edinburgh Future Institute 
Leveraging Data Driven Innovation to Support Expected Surge in People Experiencing Homelessness in Edinburgh due to COVID-19 

Awarded: £24,900

The research team led the development of Street Support Edinburgh, which is a digital resource to connect people at risk of, or experiencing homelessness, with services in the city. The aim of the project is to deliver social benefit through the generation, collection and analysis of data via the implementation of Street Support Edinburgh (SSE) in response to the predicted increase in homelessness in Edinburgh following the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Gillian Docherty

Bayes Centre ( The Data Lab)

ENIAN – Interconnection algorithm for renewables industry 

Awarded: £10,000

This collaborative project between University of Edinburgh, The Data Lab and ENIAN focusses on repurposing data from energy network operators and suppliers to build custom ML algorithms that support the transition to net zero economy and contribute to economic growth in the renewables sector. 


Morgan Currie

Edinburgh Futures Institute

The Cultural Data Trust 

Awarded: £9,045

Partnering with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, the Culture and Communities Mapping Project will design an online map of festival data – including data on ticketing, venues and outreach – to support efforts in cultural dispersal. Analysis of the data will identify target areas; citizens, cultural institutions and festivals can make a case for support for more festival programming and cultural infrastructure in these identified areas. Covid-19 has created an opportunity for festivals to rethink traditional relationships with communities; ultimately this project aims to empower local organisations and citizens to take an active role in festival programming and events while helping create a more equitable spread of resources, both cultural and economic, as the city recovers from the pandemic. 


Nikhil Hirani

Bayes Centre / Usher Institute

Intelligent automated triage in Dermatology and beyond 

Awarded: £19,302

Intelligent automated triage in Dermatology and beyond; the NHS is facing an unprecedented challenge to remobilise its essential functions during and after the Covid-19 pandemic. Huge numbers of patients that have been referred to hospital departments have been deferred and are still waiting to be seen. Dermatology is one of the highest demand services in the NHS and there is an urgent need to prioritise referrals. This task takes time and expertise and is normally undertaken by doctors. In this project we are developing and testing a tool, based on ‘natural language processing’ (NPL) that can read and interpret the GP referral letter and allocate to specific categories. The aim is to safely replicate the task that is done by humans but to do this faster and allow doctors to use their skills to see patients. If successful this type of tool could be used to speed up the patient pathway from GP referral to diagnosis and treatment. 


Richard Taylor

Easter Bush

A data-driven single cell sequencing approach to support innovation in Atlantic salmon aquaculture 

Awarded: £49,944

COVID-19 has had a major negative impact on salmon farming, a sector that supports almost 12,000 Scottish jobs and is worth over £2bn to the economy. The export market for Scottish salmon collapsed by 34% in the first quarter of 2020, and continuing challenges are putting jobs at risk and threatening sector growth targets in what is Scotland’s largest food export market. 

Our project aims to rapidly accelerate the adoption of data-driven ‘single cell’ approaches in the salmon aquaculture sector, which allow for the examination of biological status and response of individual cell types at a previously unimaginable resolution and scale. This will provide the type of novel, exploitable information that has already promoted a revolution in the understanding of major diseases in human health. 

We will deliver a multi organ immune cell atlas to examine immune response in several important immune organs in Atlantic salmon. These data will be made available on a web portal for immediate exploitation by the Scottish salmon farming industry. We will also provide workshop training in these techniques to further facilitate uptake by commercial partners and researchers in Scotland. 


William Lamb

Edinburgh Futures Institute

Unlocking Gaelic sound: Increasing digital footfall in Edinburgh’s archives through novel language technologies 

Awarded: £49,992

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely restricted access to archives and libraries, threatening jobs, halting research and restricting cultural activity. In this project, we will work with the National Library of Scotland, the School of Scottish Studies Archives and Tobar an Dualchais / Kist o Riches, to transcribe a broad range of Gaelic-language media using innovative language technologies. This will serve to increase digital footfall, enhance their cultural and research value, and facilitate their creative distillation. 


Andrew Manches

Edinburgh Futures Institute

EdTech entrepreneurship at UoE 

Awarded: £10,000

EdTech and Entrepreneurship will help drive the University’s goal of leading in ethical data-driven educational technologies. The project works with local companies, Pling, Cramasie and Playable, as well as local schools, to develop a robust working prototype of an Internet of Things platform linking everyday toys to digital media for early learning and communication. The project will contribute directly to various initiatives including the development of entrepreneurial bootcamps and courses.

For project updates see https://www.de.ed.ac.uk/news/new-project-funded-edtech-entrepreneurship-uoe



Simon Chapple

Bayes Centre / Information Services 

Data Town Simulator

Awarded: £36,695

Datatown Simulator will provide a unique web-based remote learning virtual IoT sensor data experience to pupils and students across South East Scotland. A wide variety of real-world interactive scenarios will be available to explore, including renewable power generation, traffic pollution and extreme weather events, applied to the fictitious, but realistic, Cladach, a Datatown located on the east coast of Fife.  The system will provide teacher selectable scenario driven content with appropriate real-time simulated environmental sensor measurements including temperature, wind, humidity, atmospheric pressure, water flow, and traffic movement, from across the virtualised Datatown, presented in easy to interpret data views for learners. 


Jonathan Ansell

Edinburgh Futures Institute

Edinburgh International Book Festival: Digitally Enhanced Marketing Analytics 

Awarded: £13,827

In 2020 Edinburgh International Book Festival (‘Book Festival’) was unable to operate in person due to the pandemic. This was a significant blow to the festival, associated local Scottish publishers and authors and local businesses reliant on income from Book Festival attendees. In response, the Book Festival launched a successful online event series enticing entirely new audiences.  

 In this project the Business School will work with the Book Festival by analysing their audiences and guiding future approaches to fair and equitable revenue generation through their digital offering. It will also help guide their engagement activity to retain and grow old and new audiences to the Book Festival.


Raffaella Calabrese

Edinburgh Futures Institute 

The impact of COVID-19 on Scottish small and medium enterprises  

Awarded: £10,422

The aim of this project is to scope the barriers that Scottish SMEs face as a consequence of the pandemic, and how this intersects with business sectors, locality, and demographics. Ultimately the project should help design short and long-term policy interventions that the Scottish Government and the Scottish National Investment Bank should implement to support SMEs in Scotland to face the consequences of the pandemic. 


Howie Carson

Edinburgh Futures Institute 

“The Show Must Go On!” Examining the Impact and Recovery from COVID-19 in the Performance Arts 

Awarded: £23,364

One of the most significantly impacted sectors within Scotland during COVID-19 are the creative/performance industries. The UK government has even suggested that musicians and others in the arts should retrain and find other jobs. Taking on this challenge is known to be facilitated by specific psychological characteristics. Therefore, this project aims to assess the likely maintenance, development and transition-out of the industry (or enhanced performance within it) through the lens of important psycho-behavioural and psych-social skills. 


D K Arvind

Bayes Centre / Usher Institute 

Remote monitoring and pulmonary rehabilitation of COVID19-recovered and COPD patients in the NHS Borders region 

Awarded: £24,960

The aim is to support self-management of pulmonary rehabilitation at home for people with lung problems in collaboration with physiotherapists and respiratory nurses at NHS Borders. The project uses a combination of the wireless RESpeck device worn as a patch on the chest and a mobile application, both developed at the Centre for Speckled Computing, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh, to monitor unobtrusively breathing rate, breathing flow/effort, and physical activity, and which also orchestrates the daily pulmonary rehabilitation exercises. The RESpeck sensor data is streamed wirelessly to the mobile phone and uploaded to a Cloud-based server for analysis using AI methods. Actionable information is provided for both  patients and the remote Care Team, such as the correctness of the pulmonary rehabilitation exercises, their frequency and duration; trends in the breathing rate at rest and during the exercises; and, any changes in breathing patterns. The project will also investigate how home-based pulmonary rehabilitation can support the Care Team at NHS Borders under current restrictions, and its integration in the care pathway in a sustainable post-COVID future.


Goncalo dos Reis

Bayes Centre 

Data-driven tools for battery lifecycle prediction 

Awarded: £12,510

Accurately predicting the lifetime of complex, non-linear systems such as lithium-ion batteries is critical for technological development. Understanding the ageing mechanisms and device variability within dynamic operating conditions remains challenging. Addressing this challenge of battery modelling constitutes an essential step to support a growing industrial activity in Scotland. This project builds, and tests on public data in battery research, two new tools underpinning machine learning (ML) solutions to estimate the lifespan of a battery. One addresses a new, more efficient way to identify which variables affect battery degradation. The other, the limited data available in the public sphere. 


Grant Jarvie

Bayes Centre / Academy of Sport

Data driven approach to Covid Recovery and Job Retention in the Scottish Football Industry 

Awarded: £35,000

At November 2020 Scottish football was estimated to have suffered a collective loss of £70m due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The figure was projected to rise to £100m by the end of the 2020/21 season.  

The proof of concept presented in this project is designed to (i) produce a unique data sets that will help the Scottish football industry build back better from Covid -19 and (ii) demonstrate the potential of the University of Edinburgh’s capability to inform and support the football industry. 

 The project consists of three sets of activities (i) an analysis of Scottish football sentiment; (ii) a spatial and demographic analysis of supporters and non-supporters and (iii) a cataloguing of a Scottish football data set. Collectively the project will validate need for and make the case for an independent Scottish Football/Sport Data Observatory. 


Jasmina Lazic

Bayes Centre

Making the most of data for the South of Scotland Tourism Industry

Awarded: £24,883

The South of Scotland tourism and hospitality industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. Access to valuable insights will be critical in attracting more visitors to the region, supporting local businesses who are large employers in the region. Currently, the data on visitors and tourists is not relevant or timely for smaller destinations within Scotland.  

Whereverly have developed websites and trip exploration applications for many of Scotland’s destinations, including the South of Scotland (‘Scotland Starts Here), The North Coast 500, The Coig and Stirling. Whereverly are partnering with the Bayes Centre and the Business School at the University of Edinburgh to develop a way to make their data insights routinely available and interpretable to their destination clients, starting with the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA).  

The SSDA will be able to use these insights to improve their marketing performance, attracting more visitors to the region. In addition, when shared with local businesses, they will be able to make decisions about their own business with reference to data. 


Ruth McQuillian 

Usher Institute

UNCOVER Phase 2: Capacity building 

Awarded: £23,457

UNCOVER – the Usher Network for COVID-19 Evidence Reviews – aims to provide reliable, timely and good-quality evidence to decision-makers, in answer to important questions about COVID-19 and its consequences. 

This volunteer-led group of staff and students at the University of Edinburgh was set up in the early stages of the pandemic, thanks to support from DDI. UNCOVER takes a pragmatic, interdiscplinary approach to answering the questions that are prioritised by policy-makers (rather than those of purely academic interest). Its innovative working model, with staff and students working alongside each other, has proven to add real value to the learning experience, and to equip students with skills, confidence and employability for the future. 

This grant will allow UNCOVER to move from a fairly improvised working model, to a more sustainable footing; allowing in-depth partnerships with policy-making organisations to be established, as well as enabling more structured student development through internships, which will provide a vital bridge between education and employment in a challenging economic context.


Kia Nazarpour

Bayes Centre / Usher Institute 

User-centred and data-driven prosthetic hands – Beyond the laboratory 

Awarded: £25,054

Once an upper-limb prosthesis is fitted in a clinic and the user returns home, the clinician cannot tell if the prosthesis is used or how well it is functioning. Statistics show that up to 44% of the upper-limb prosthesis users abandon their device.  The aim of this project is to engage with broad stakeholders to inform the design of the world’s first Internet-enabled prosthetic hand; connecting the user and the clinic seamlessly. 


Janet Roberts/ Josh Ryan-Saha 

Bayes Centre / Edinburgh Futures Institute 

Making the most of East Lothian’s Beaches 

Awarded: £37,500

In the summer of 2020, East Lothian’s beaches had 4 million visits, an increase of 1 million visits from 2019. This led to congestion/traffic and anti-social behaviour. In addition, many of these beaches are delicate preservation areas that were put under threat from overcrowding. At the same time, many of East Lothian’s tourism/culture/hospitality businesses and attractions, lied dormant and they did not have the information or tools available to take advantage of the increased visitor numbers. 

We will use IoT and geospatial technology to generate real time, geo- referenced, ‘busy-ness’ data. These data will be used by local authority, visitors, and local businesses, to understand where less busy areas are, what activities and facilities they offer, and inform data driven decisions to:  

  1. Proactively manage the capacity of East Lothian’s beaches in 2021, with timely diversion signalling by local authorities, to redirect visitors away from potential overcrowded spaces. 
  2. Reduce negative environmental impact of overcrowding. 
  3. Enable visitors to understand where less crowded destinations are, how to get to them, and what other attractions and facilities exist nearby 
  4. Potentially create business opportunities for East Lothian’s hospitality and tourism businesses, able to capture demand as visitors change their plans and look for alternatives


Lucy Stanfield & Sean Smith 

Edinburgh Futures Institute 

Developing a data framework to improve material circularity in the Edinburgh city region 

Awarded: £21,754

An unsustainable increase in household waste and single-use plastic waste as a result of homeworking and other trends during the Covid-19 pandemic has created additional barriers to advancing the circular economy for many local authorities. Reduction of waste and re-use or recycling is a key component within net-zero ambitions both at government and local authority levels. It is essential that plastic waste is properly managed in the cities and the regions; failure to do so results in pollution, carbon wastage and ultimately the degradation of the regional environment, often having an outsized impact on the poorest in society. Working with local authorities, this innovative project will address this problem by developing a data framework to improve material circularity in the Edinburgh city region. By taking a data-driven approach, the project aims to create smarter, more efficient waste management systems and processes, contributing to a cleaner, more circular city and region supporting the economic and social recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. 


Kirsteen Sheilds

Easter Bush

Eco-Eats: A new recipe box delivery programme for Edinburgh 

Awarded: £25,000

This project connects the wider regional community in Edinburgh with staff and students from the University of Edinburgh through a joint venture to develop a new recipe box scheme. The proposed new recipe box aims to integrate components that address inequalities (through pay-it-forward and sliding scale pay options), education (maximizing accessibility by linking the meal-boxes with how-to videos by local people alongside traditional written recipes, and including interesting information about the produce), and sustainability (by using local produce as far as possible, by reducing food waste, and by encouraging weekly meal planning). The genesis of this project comes from hands-on experience of working with emergency food provision in Edinburgh through the Covid-19 pandemic, and witnessing the simultaneous and interconnecting challenges faced by both vulnerable households and food sector workers at this time. 


Robin Williams

Bayes Centre / Edinburgh Futures Institute / Usher Institute

Optometry PilotStudy(OPS)of optometrists’ expectations and perceived advantages or latent concerns related to retinal-image data handled by the SCONe project 

Awarded: £9,942

The Optometry Pilot Study (OPS) will explore optometrists’ expectations and concerns about remote consultation and data sharing. Artificial intelligence could improve diagnostic precision and treatment by sharing retinal-image data between hospital and High Street optometrists. However, they are not familiar with AI and may worry about its reliability and its potential impacts on their practice. A team, combining medical, sociological and technical viewpoints, will identify potential challenges to these new services and propose mitigations.  OPS aims to ensure that advances achieved by the Scottish Collaborative Optometry-Ophthalmology Network e-research (SCONe) are translated into practice. 


About the Scottish Funding Council  programme 

The Scottish Funding Council has provided £75m funding to boost the Scottish university research, to contribute to the mitigation of effects of Covid-19 pandemic. The University of Edinburgh received £23.2m of these funds. 

One of the goals set by Scottish Funding Council to fund translation of research into action, to support our region’s recovery. The University of Edinburgh has allocated £4m fund for this purpose, to be coordinated as part of the Data-Driven Innovation initiative. 

Activity supported by this fund is split into three strands; ‘Building Back Better’, ‘Supporting recovery and growth through entrepreneurship’ and ‘Adapting to new ways of operating’ delivered in coordination between the DDI hubs (the Bayes Centre, Edinburgh Futures Institute, Usher, Easter Bush and Edinburgh International Data Facility), Edinburgh Innovations and the DDI initiative office. 

Through these activities we aim to deliver impact for communities, services and businesses, maintain or generate new jobs in the University and wider City Region. 

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