Interview with Bill Buchanan - Tech Sector - Edinburgh Legends - MIE-MakeItEdinburgh - Meeting Edinburgh
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Interview with Bill Buchanan

Professor in the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University
@billatnapier

How has your teaching changed over the years?

My teaching has changed completely over the years, as I’ve seen the world becoming increasingly dependent upon the Internet/Cloud for virtually every part of our lives. It has transformed finance, transport and social interaction, and is now providing new methods for improved health and care.

I now teach computer security, and I’ve seen the importance data of building virtual infrastructure – cyber physical spaces – and how we must protect citizens from those who aim to steal from them, or even pretend to be them. And what better place to build a new world, than one of the most beautiful and cultured cities on the planet?

How do you attract the world’s best talent to come and study in Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is one of the most wonderful cities in the world, and I adore living and working here. Our students, too, often love being here, and appreciate the beauty and culture around them. As a city it is cultured and achingly beautiful, along with being one of the most educated cities in the whole world. In the UK, for example, Edinburgh has the highest percentage of graduates than any other city. This is because smart people want to live in a smart city, and which will allow them and their families to thrive. If you want castles, beaches, hills, parks, art galleries, and science festivals, Edinburgh provides in a way that few other cities can, and where you can meet someone from virtually every corner of our planet.

From the minute I walked out of Waverley station into the city all the years ago, I was completely bowled over by the most beautiful place that I had ever seen, and I've never seen a place more captivating. It excites and inspires me every single day. And so, in all the years I've lived and worked in the city, it has never let me or my family down. It has always contributed and accentuated everything that we have done, and without it our teaching and our research would never have thrived in the way it has. It is a city too which appreciates those coming to the city, and will welcome them with open arms.

For innovation, there is lots of support from funding to engage with university staff to funding in developing innovative ideas and internationalising work. As a city, its international links have always precious in its development, and it will continue to advance for its unique quality of life. Over the years, other universities around the world have tried to tempt me away from the city, but nothing could, as no other city could provide the quality of life that this city provides me. It inspires me every single day.

How far has Edinburgh come in terms of building a diverse tech community?

Edinburgh is full of smart people, along with people who are keen to collaborate. In a small city like Edinburgh, people work together, and bring the skills and knowledge together. It also has a strong and stable foundation built on education, finance and health, and which sustains research and innovation. It is a city which produces high-quality graduates from its education infrastructure, and which is also highly attractive for those from around the world with tech skills. Few other cities would allow you to live in the centre of the city, and then be able to work in a world-leading environment within a walkable distance.

Is Edinburgh producing tech for social good as well as for profitability?

Edinburgh showed the world how to live in an enlightened way, and continues to do so. It has tech companies which are developing new systems including on how we can best use information sharing for citizen focused infrastructures, and which could transform our provision of health and social care services.

Does Edinburgh have a tech niche?

From the beauty of the New Town and the Old Town, we are building the foundations of a new world, and which is built on trust and within the cloud. Edinburgh is now brimming with new companies looking at Cloud services, machine learning, data analytics, cyber security, blockchain and a whole range of new applications. Our financial services infrastructure provides a key driver, along with health care, and it is these areas which are showing some of the greatest promise in providing high impact companies. There are lots of great events going on in the city, and which support the development of new ideas, and to share experience and knowledge.

How has Edinburgh been able to compete with global mega cities in terms of its tech output and quality?

There is no city in the world which can provide the quality of living than Edinburgh can. It is a city which showed the world how to act in an enlightened way and still does. It is also a city that people love to come to, and you can easily walk around. I love a recent quote: “Edinburgh has a great tech ecosystem and is full of rich people, geeks and a city they both want to live in."  We have managed to develop three highlight successful spin-out companies – Zonefox, Symphonic and Cyan Forensics – and which continue to thrive, and have built their base in Edinburgh. Without the city, we would have struggled to find the required funding and the required resources.