Case studies

Our collaboration projects between the public sector, industry and academia bring a real impact to Scotland.

data highlands and islands

Fostering data innovation though collaboration and skills development

Data Path: The Data Lab in Inverness, the Highlands and Islands

The Data Lab is Scotland’s innovation centre for data and artificial intelligence (AI). With hubs in Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Data Lab aims to foster innovation that will help Scotland maximise value from data. The Inverness hub opened in April 2019 and is located within An Lochran on Inverness Campus. It provides the Highlands and Islands with a dedicated centre for data and AI to help build momentum and create further growth and opportunities in the tech sector

The opening of The Data Lab hub on Inverness Campus builds on a strong partnership between The Data Lab (TDL) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). For several years, the two organisations had previously collaborated on running DataFest events across the region – creating exciting workshops and networking opportunities for young people and the tech sector. With confirmation in April 2019 of national funding for Phase 2 of the Data Lab, which included £500k from HIE, the two organisations were in a position to work together to create a new Data Lab hub co-located with HIE’s Innovation and Technology team in Inverness.

The Data Lab hub in Inverness was created to focus on data driven innovation across Scotland’s rural digital economy. With our support we were delighted to bring one of The Data Lab team to the north of Scotland, to focus on data science skills and talent, events and new ambitious collaborative projects. In addition, by having the hub located here, businesses from across the Highlands and Island now have access to exciting new national and international contacts and opportunities.

Theresa Swayne, senior digital economy manager at HIE

The Inverness hub is at the centre of a support programme for businesses in the Highlands and Islands looking to innovate through data science to solve real-world business problems. It provides access to specialist advice, support and training, and runs events on topics such as data innovation featuring businesses that are applying machine learning and AI to create value.

Over 2,500 businesses across the region are expected to benefit from the programme over the next three years. As well as businesses, the programme is also accessible to established community groups and social enterprises.

We are not focused on one sector or one intervention. Everything we do, the support we offer, is tailored to the needs of the specific organisation – whether that’s in the private sector, the public sector or the third sector. In the Highlands and Islands, the first year of the TDL2 hub has seen as working with a range of innovative organisations from start-ups to large public bodies. It’s been an exciting and challenging year as we identify how best to provide support to a diverse range of organisations across a dispersed and rural geography.

Karen O’Hanlon, business development executive with The Data Lab in Inverness 

The Data Lab: Innovation, Skills, and Events

The Data Lab hub in Inverness seeks to help businesses and organisations in the Highlands and Islands to maximise the value from data and to exploit the opportunities presented by a data powered future. Interventions fall into three key areas:

  1. Support to innovate: Support for collaborative partnerships that turn specialist expertise and academic research into real world innovation.
  2.  Skills and talent: Help for organisations looking to upskill employees so that can apply the latest developments in data science and AI.
  3. Community and events: Championing and cultivating the data science community in the region to ensure that it continues to flourish.

Specific programmes included the Data Lab Executive Education Programme, the Data Lab Industrial Doctorate Programme, the Data Lab MSc Programme – and, of course, DataFest.

We like to think our support helps organisations to get on a pathway to a data-rich future, it’s a journey that encourages them to increasingly integrate data into their everyday business through a series of tailored interventions and engagement opportunities.

This journey may start with a data science student working inhouse on a specific project for a few months, which could lead to a collaborative project with academics or other organisations, and ultimately to employing a data scientist within the business itself. It’s a continuous learning curve – and we provide access to the tools and the expertise they need at every stage.

Karen O’Hanlon, business development executive

The Data Lab: The Future Starts Here

Any organisation or business in the Highlands and Islands interested in both driving more value from their existing data or looking to innovate using data can contact: The Data Lab Business Development Executive, Karen O’Hanlon here: karen.ohanlon@thedatalab.com. Find out more about the Data Drive HIE