Informatics Ventures was at the genesis of the technology ecosystem in Scotland and currently occupies pole position as an international thought leader at the cutting edge of data-centric innovation. Through practitioner-led entrepreneurship, education and ecosystem networking, Informatics Ventures prepares and equips technology entrepreneurs with the skills and experience to scale their business and take it to a global stage. Informatics Ventures is located at the heart of The University of Edinburgh, within The School of Informatics and The Bayes Centre.
TalentSpark, powered by Eden Scott, is a unique recruitment solution for early stage businesses. They believe that strong teams build innovative and sustainable businesses. Working as talent partners, they gain a holistic view of the company to find individuals with the right skill sets, values and purpose to grow client’s businesses. They provide an exec and recruitment service, tailored to the needs of startups.
What is Data-Driven Innovation?
Millions of devices are generating large amounts of data with the ability to drive economic growth, social change, and improve public services. Data-driven Innovation is about capturing flows of data from lots of different sources and analyzing it to identify trends and behaviours, leading to improved services for consumers and citizens.
An example of this would be taking the data generated by Uber to identify regular journeys in a city which could inform the need to increase public transport or manage road repairs. Similarly, in health care we can already utilize patient data to ascertain the likely response to a specific drug in treatment. These types of interventions ensure that we operate cost-effectively and improve the experience of our citizens.
Why is Edinburgh such a good place for digital companies to thrive?
Home to Skyscanner, FanDuel and the UK’s largest tech incubator CodeBase - Edinburgh is a hotbed of tech and data talent. The combination of academic excellence in data science, a vibrant start-up community, government support - and additional expertise in areas like biosciences, financial services and marketing analytics - creates an ideal environment for data-driven businesses to succeed.
The University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics - the largest informatics Centre in Europe - ranks highest in informatic research in the UK. Beyond London, Edinburgh is already the UK’s largest hub for data centric startup and spin-out companies, ahead of Oxford and Cambridge. It consistently tops surveys as a great city to live and work and was named Europe’s most attractive destination for tech businesses to locate to by European Business Magazine.
The Data Driven Innovation Programme will further enhance Edinburgh’s burgeoning tech community by increasing the contribution of university research, creating more spinout companies, and attracting startups and established businesses to the city to take advantage of the graduate skills.
How important are the universities here in producing talent?
The University of Edinburgh is renowned for world leading research in informatics and computer science, ranking first within the UK.
Heriot-Watt University is a global leader in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (RAI), jointly running the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics (ECR) with the University of Edinburgh, exploring collaborative interaction between humans, robots and their environments.
Between them the city region’s universities attract domestic research income that is almost four times the national average. These strengths have propelled a dramatic increase in the number of data scientists.
Within the Universities and with the assistance of the Edinburgh Region City deal, five data-driven innovation ‘hubs’ have been created - further cementing the role of the Universities as a core component of the Edinburgh City Deal. Supporting the work of the hubs, a unique new super-computing facility ensures the secure and trustworthy analysis of datasets.
Are there any ‘next big’ companies or inventions we should be looking out for coming out of the city?
Technology is moving at an unprecedented speed and changing the way that we work, live and interact. The city is awash with innovative companies developing great ideas.
Having recently announced its FDA approval, the AI-enabled healthcare company Current Health (previously Snap40) is one to watch. The Edinburgh-based business secured $8 million (£6.1m) in the largest seed funding round by a UK digital healthcare business. Current Health’s remote patient monitoring system reduced the number of home visits by 22 percent in recent trails with an NHS Trust Hospital Home Team.
Although incorporated in the US and funded to the tune of $4M by US investors, Flick is based in Edinburgh’s Codebase incubator. With unicorn credentials in its founding team Flick is being built on firm foundations. A live mobile engagement platform, Flick is redefining the way that we share media by allowing the users to create group topics where they can chat and share media content together. Having previously built Fanduel, Flick’s co-founders understand how to build and execute exciting, polished products that are consumed daily by millions of users.
Tackling the UK’s care crisis, Care Sourcer has developed technology that compares and matches care for the elderly. After securing £8.5 million investment, the company is making a significant impact on the challenges in social care and has already signed contracts with several NHS trusts. With the former Skyscanner COO on its board, the company has experience to guide its ambitious growth plans.
Where do you look for talent and recruit from?
Employers today are looking for much more than just technical skills. The innovative businesses TalentSpark works with are looking for agile creative problem solvers with tenacity and a positive mindset. Working in a startup is challenging – developing a product or service whilst curtailed by finance and resource is not an easy environment, but it can be hugely rewarding. There is a huge amount of talent in Edinburgh and in the past few years we’ve seen a monumental spike in demand for software engineering, DevOps and data scientists.
The universities have an essential role to play in developing the talent pipeline, but other organisations such as Scotland’s Digital Skills Academy and Codeclan are also helping to increase technical skills in the capital. Brexit is having an impact, but the quality of life that Edinburgh affords is still hugely attractive for international talent. The burgeoning startup scene creates a menu of opportunities for those attracted to Edinburgh’s tech community.
How far has Edinburgh come in terms of building a diverse digital community?
Edinburgh has a thriving digital and tech scene that is hugely collegiate and collaborative. It is the largest tech hub outside of London.
The recent Tech Nation report found that the Scottish capital has thousands of people with skills in areas such as software engineering, data analysis, artificial intelligence, and deep technology.
According to Meetup.com 23,571 people are sharing their skills in these areas across 88 Edinburgh tech meetup groups (as of March 2018).
The University of Edinburgh is the UK’s longest established centre for AI and is now one of the best in the world - proving that the city is at the forefront of AI research and development.
Which industry conferences do you rate and how important is it for your organisation to attend such gatherings?
Edinburgh is internationally renowned as a festive city. In August, when the city is a cultural smorgasbord, the tech community comes together for Turing Fest. Now in its fourth year, ”Europe’s best cross-functional tech conference” draws an international audience of 3000+ founders, marketers, engineers, product people and investors with a heady mix of keynote speakers, workshops, panels and parties. It’s a must-attend event for those looking to build great products and build happy, effective teams.
Organised by Scotland’s Data Innovation Centre DataLab, ‘Datafest’ is a two-week festival of data innovation, showcasing Scotland's world leading capabilities in data science and artificial intelligence. Comprised of data insights, a focus on skills and talent, meetups, hackathons, debates, public engagement and data science training programmes, Datafest is designed to bring together and showcase the best of the data community across Scotland.
The most well-established tech event in Edinburgh is Engage Invest Exploit (EIE). Now in its eleventh year, EIE - powered by Informatics Ventures - is “Scotland’s Premier Tech Investor Showcase”, providing a platform for young data-driven companies to pitch their innovative ideas to an audience of international investors. Supported by The University of Edinburgh, The School of Informatics, and Scottish Enterprise, Informatics Ventures runs an annual Entrepreneur Development and Investor Readiness Programme which prepares 50+ startups with the knowledge, drive and ambition to grow global businesses. The pinnacle of the programme is the EIE conference when the 50+ data companies take to the stage for a day of intense pitching. Over 300 companies have taken part in EIE and gone on to secure over £650 million of seed and follow-on funding.
EIE 2018 hosted 985 delegates, including in excess of 250 investors, company executives, founders and guests. The 2018 company cohort have since raised funding in excess of £4.8 million.
Do digital communications reduce the need for face to face interaction at conferences?
Whilst digital communication has done much to facilitate global communications, it cannot replace face to face interaction in the ability to build new relationships. Attending conferences allows you to meet new people beyond your existing network and contextualise the size and scope of the community you’re looking to become part of.
For EIE the ability to bring people together is essential. ’Team’ plays a significant role in any investors’ decision to back a company and direct communication affords investors the ability to gauge the skills and expertise of the founder in a way that isn’t possible digitally.