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Group photo of participants at Innovation Week 2022

Students develop sustainable tourism solutions in data challenge

The Data Lab Masters students participated in Innovation Week 2022 from May 30th to June 2nd to create solutions for a live data challenge to encourage greener tourism across Scotland.

What do you get when you have a room of data science masters’ students, a craft table, and an urgent and pressing societal problem?

The Data Lab MSc Innovation Week 2022!

For the first time since 2019, The Data Lab was able to bring our fabulous MSc cohort together for The Data Lab MSc Innovation Week. 80 students from 11 universities arrived at The Stirling Court Hotel at the end of May, ready to apply their technical skills to a live data challenge proposed by Visit Scotland, to learn some new approaches and work in 18 inter-disciplinary teams with their peers. This was a hybrid event with two days of networking and team-building followed by two days analysing data sources provided by ScotRail and Skyscanner.

Design thinking

Craft table used to create a “wonder widget” prototype

First off, our Design Thinking partner Skillsfluence, led by Joanne Hagerty, threw the cohort into a short, sharp, team exercise to create a “wonder widget” prototype to aid remote study. That’s when the craft table comes in useful!

This was just a warm-up for the serious business of the first part of Innovation Week. We heard from challenge sponsors Chris Greenwood, Visit Scotland, and Josh Ryan-Saha, Travel Tech about the task ahead for the Scottish Tourism Industry in the face of an urgent, global climate emergency. The students were asked to explore, through a design thinking approach, ways to encourage greener tourism across Scotland, focusing on different market segments. Going through the process, the students coined new phrases to describe emerging market segments for example “work-cation”, produced apps and devices including an interactive mobile bench, all demonstrating the power of approaching societal problems with humans at the centre of the iterative design process.

The data challenge

After some social activities (including The Data Lab Quiz), and a chance to enjoy the fantastic setting at Stirling University, students returned home to engage in the second part of Innovation Week in their teams for the data challenge element of the week.  This was directed by The Data Lab’s Data Challenge partner School of Python.

Using Discord, and led by Euan Wielewski, students met data experts including Skyscanner’s Patrick Giordani and Visit Scotland’s Philip Praine and got stuck into the data. The goal was for each team to “produce an analysis using a wide range of data sources, to help Visit Scotland better understand the impact different visitor market segments have on people, places, business and the environment”.

Creative solutions

With considerable time pressure, we were delighted that so many teams submitted on time and produced excellent, well-constructed analysis of the data sources which included a variety of creative suggestions for Visit Scotland to consider. The outputs have been assessed by a judging panel comprising the challenge owners as well as Patrick from Skyscanner,  Joanna McKenzie from The Data Lab and Euan from School of Python. Shortlisted teams will be invited to present their analysis at The Data Lab MSc closing event and the winner will receive a The Data Lab prize.

What did our students think?

Thanks to the lovely TDL team for creating a memorable event. Enjoyed both parts of the innovation week. Stirling was a serene place to choose for the event. Was a wonderful experience and a good 2 days off from the usual routine.


Thank you for the first part of the Innovation week. I enjoyed every minute. Love the place, amazing views, lake, swimming pool, air, birds, trees and flowers. Well done, you thought about every detail. Love it!


Thanks to everyone involved in organising a very successful innovation week and a special thanks to @Marian Dunbar @Sara Orr-Saiz @Barbara Athanasakou and @Euan Wielewski . I thoroughly enjoyed the last 4 days and was very thrilled to complete my first ever data challenge😃.  It was great to meet other students from our cohort and share our experiences.


And what did we think? As ever we are so impressed with our students, and we cannot wait to see who will win the first ever The Data Lab MSc Innovation Week prize at The Data Lab MSc 2021-22 Closing event on 24 August 2022.

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