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Overview of the Tron Kirk tower and roof tops of houses in Edinburgh

Property technology start-up grows team following placements

Grand Bequest is an Edinburgh-based PropTech start-up that uses AI and data to promote the redevelopment of vacant buildings and give them a new life. The company currently only operates in Scotland, but it is looking to expand across the UK and internationally in the future.  

We look at the positive impact that taking part in the PhD Placement Programme has had on Grand Bequest – could our students bring the same benefits to your business?

The Background

Since it was founded in 2020, Grand Bequest has worked closely with The Data Lab. Initially using its TORCH programme to better understand how data can be used to contribute towards the process of reusing existing buildings, The Data Lab also helped Grand Bequest access grants for the team to undergo data science training.

Founder and CEO, Dr Katherine Gunderson, wanted to take the team’s data knowledge further by bringing in outside expertise. This led the organisation to re-engage with The Data Lab in 2021, enrolling in its MSc placement programme initially and then going on to become a part of its PhD placement programme. Bringing on board a PhD student assisted in driving the business forward and introduced data analytics and statistical knowledge to the company.

The Data Lab PhD programme is a phenomenal resource, especially for smaller organisations like ours which need to use data but don’t have the knowledge or know-how internally. The Data Lab initially helped develop our organisation from ideation to commercial reality and working with its PhD and MSc programme was the obvious next step for us. Our initial impression of the graduate students was extremely positive, they have such open minds and are determined to find the answers to questions I hadn’t ever thought of. Overall, the support The Data Lab has provided has been invaluable and we plan to work with as many students as we can to drive our business forward while also helping them gain hands-on experience.

Dr Katherine Gunderson, CEO and Founder, Grand Bequest

The Graduate Experience

As an innovative start-up, Grand Bequest has so far worked with one MSc student and two PhD students on The Data Lab’s programmes – though the company has already enrolled in the programmes again and is awaiting matches with other graduates.

The team at Grand Bequest is encouraged to own their projects, raise questions, and develop their ideas, all whilst growing their skill set. Graduates are valued members of the team from day one, empowered to drive their own development, and are heavily involved in the start-up’s ambitious growth plans.

The Impact

Participating in The Data Lab’s PhD programme has allowed Grand Bequest to go from a start-up founded just before the pandemic to being a team of eight individuals – all working together to promote the redevelopment of the many vacant buildings that exist in Scotland and give them a new lease of life. With a third PhD student who joined the ranks in summer 2022 to work alongside Alina, the plan is to have further placements throughout the year which have the potential to convert into full time positions post-study.

With a vision of becoming a hub for professional growth, participating in The Data Lab’s PhD placement programme gives organisations like Grand Bequest support in sourcing the talent they need to succeed. Through its involvement in the programme Grand Bequest was able to look beyond the CV and get to know the graduates resulting in new, talented team members who share the organisation’s passion.

Student Spotlight: Alina Kumukova, PhD in Statistics, University of Edinburgh

Alina Kumukova, Data Analyst, Grand Bequest

Alina joined The Data Lab’s industrial placement programme as part of her PhD in Statistics at the University of Edinburgh, where she focuses on modelling rare and extreme events. Alina’s work with Grand Bequest matched her skills/interest area perfectly and provided an opportunity to share the knowledge she had gained while studying. Alina’s project during her time at Grand Bequest focused on revising datasets, to allow the company to sort and prioritise hundreds of buildings using AI to assess their benefit to local communities.

Following her placement, Alina has secured a full-time role with the company. She is also now working alongside Grand Bequests’ third student placement to further build on her work.

I have had so much support from my colleagues at Grand Bequest and The Data Lab throughout the process. It has been an insightful and beneficial opportunity for me to understand the differences between academia and industry, and how they blend together. The placement has helped in seeing the variety of jobs out there for someone with my skillset, and I am extremely excited to join the Grand Bequest team in the autumn.

Alina Kumukova, Data Analyst, Grand Bequest

Are you interested in taking part in our PhD Placement Programme?  Your business could also benefit from the new ideas and perspectives that our talented data students bring.