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Gillian Docherty

Conference to help Scotland harness data potential

10th February 2016 • News

Scotland must seize its window of opportunity to become a world-leading destination for data science, according to the head of the national data innovation centre.

Announcing the launch of Data Talent Scotland, The Data Lab’s CEO Gillian Docherty, said that thanks to a unique ecosystem, Scotland has genuine potential to become a global centre for all things data. However, industry and academia must work together to ensure that a shortage of skills does not stifle growth.

Gillian Docherty said: “Big data is worth £216m to the UK and could be responsible for 58,000 jobs by next year. Scotland is home to 11 of the UK’s 24 postgraduate data science courses as well as a very healthy tech sector, meaning that we are in an ideal position to become a global hub, in turn seeing considerable economic benefit.

“This is a one-off opportunity and there is a risk that others could take the lead if we do not join forces as a community to ensure we have a healthy and consistent talent pipeline.”

Data Talent Scotland is a collider event designed to spark vital links between industry and academia as well as helping up-and-coming data scientists to make connections and learn about the opportunities available in Scotland.

The event, which will be held at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh on 16th March, is being organised by The Data Lab in partnership with global youth entrepreneurship organisation WeAreTheFuture, and MBN Solutions, the specialist data science recruiter.

Around 250 postgraduate data science students and data enthusiasts will be involved with the event. A series of workshops will contribute to their development by addressing a range of themes including soft skills, entrepreneurs and data, and transitioning into a data science role. Representatives from Talent Scotland, part of Scottish Enterprise, will also be on hand to provide international students with practical information about visas and immigration issues.

Docherty commented: “From research into the performance of elite sportspeople to developing personalised treatment for chronic illnesses, Scotland is home to some incredible data science and analytics projects. We are in a global market so we want to open people’s eyes to the opportunities on their doorstep and do more to support international students who are interested in putting their skills to use in Scotland after they graduate.”

For the first time, industry will be able to meet with representatives from all of Scotland’s existing postgraduate data science courses as well as four that are soon to launch. Many courses are relatively new or in development so there is an opportunity for industry to provide input on content and technologies that are valuable to employers in addition to forging partnership.

Michael Young, CEO of MBN Solutions, said: “Demand for skilled data scientists is only going to increase in years to come so savvy businesses are looking at how they can attract people coming out of academia. However, it can be a time consuming and challenging task for industry to tap into talent and research pools. This is a chance to do things differently so we are extremely excited by the prospect of bringing together the best, brightest and most talented people in our industry.”

Analytics specialist Barrachd, which employs over 40 people across offices in Edinburgh and London, is sponsoring the event.

Grant Smith, Director, explained the importance of industry engagement: “At Barrachd we understand the advantages to business of removing data from silos and having a big picture view. Similarly we need to remove any barriers preventing new talent joining our industry. It’s important that we are promoting the opportunities available to graduates to encourage them to choose this career path and – as an industry – we must commit to nurturing and developing them. That’s why Barrachd is supporting Data Talent Scotland, to build vital bridges between industry and emerging graduates, to help create a stronger Data community in Scotland.”

Scotland is currently home to 11 Masters level courses in Data Science, increasing to 15 in 2016/17. Courses cover a range of domains (cyber security, Internet of Things, finance, oil and gas, business) and include full time, part time and distance learning options.

Professor David Robertson of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, said it was a really exciting time to be involved in data science in Scotland. “The key to making it work for the future is collaboration between industry, academia and the public sector. This event will help to build closer links between all three as well as giving students exposure to the business world. It is also a great opportunity to showcase the collective strength of data science in our universities and encourage partnerships between our courses and industry.”

Data Talent Scotland is coming to The Assembly Rooms Edinburgh on Wednesday 16th March 2016. For more information, visit www.datatalentscotland.com.

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