The Deal itself is worth £1.5bn, of which the DDI initiative is around £660m. As far as we know, that remains one of the single biggest investments in academic institutions in the UK.
Commensurate with the level of investment, the initiative set ambitious KPIs agreed with our City Region Deal partners. These included themes of Talent, Research, and Entrepreneurship. As we enter the sixth year, we have achieved milestones that far exceed original expectations:
Talent: We have achieved 35,000 course completions, representing 24% of the overall target.
Research: In the last year, we delivered £127 million in research activity, surpassing our planned £57 million by 125%. As a result, our total research expenditure to date has reached £399 million, exceeding our plan by 42%.
Entrepreneurship: We have supported 41 data-centric technology companies, bringing the total number supported to date to 433. That is 329 companies ahead of plan.
The deal offers unique benefits that come from linking organisations across the private sector, academia, and public sector to develop innovation opportunities with tech and data at their heart.
For researchers and innovators, this provides the opportunity to leverage the scale and resources of large organisations through collaboration, while delivering economic and social benefits in the region where they live and work.
With every year that passes, there are more researchers and projects that have benefited from DDI support in one form or another. For example, in 2023, we supported ten projects focused on using data-driven innovation to tackle ‘social change through innovation’ with the £191,000 DDI research open call. These included improving wildlife conservation through immersive technology, data-driven models for local energy storage and consumption, and audience insights from the Edinburgh Festival.
At a student level, we continue to support the Students as Change Agents initiative which is part of the University of Edinburgh’s curriculum transformation programme, and has gone from strength to strength in bringing real-world challenges to cross-disciplinary student groups. You can read more about this, and many other projects, in the case studies section.
The original vision for the DDI initiative was to position the City Region as data capital of Europe. Five years later, we are home to the UK’s only National Robotarium, the region has been selected to host the UK’s first exascale supercomputer, we are rolling out Europe’s largest Internet of Things network, and the University of Edinburgh is opening the Generative AI Laboratory to develop safe solutions for industry and government.
In the year ahead, we look forward to the opening of the remaining two hubs. First, the new Usher Institute building, followed by the Edinburgh Futures Institute. This will complete an innovation platform in Edinburgh comprising six hubs (five at the University of Edinburgh and one at Heriot-Watt University).
This will constitute a fantastic resource and I look forward continuing this strong record of delivery.
2023 marked the fifth anniversary of the First Minister and Prime Minister visiting the University of Edinburgh to sign the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.
Professor Kim Graham, Senior Responsible Officer, DDI Initiative, and Provost, The University of Edinburgh
The 2023 Annual Review
The DDI initiative’s success to date underscores our commitment to delivering substantial regional impact. As the initiative embarks on its next phase, our enhanced reporting approach will continue to guide our trajectory towards achieving even greater heights.
Entrepreneurship: In the 22/23 academic year, we supported 41 data-centric early-stage companies. As a result, the total number of companies supported to date has reached
433, which is 329 companies ahead of target.
Research: In the 22/23 academic year, we delivered £127 million in research activity. As a result, our total research expenditure to date has reached
£399 million. This figure represents 44% of total target research activity
achieved, putting us 42% ahead of schedule.
Talent: In the 22/23 academic year, we achieved 35,000 course completions, representing
24% of total target completions
across the Initiative’s lifetime.
As we enter the sixth year of the DDI initiative, we look back at the solid foundations we have established. By expanding our portfolio of data courses and enhancing our delivery capabilities, we have made significant strides in nurturing a data-literate, local talent pool. Our focus on data-centric research has positioned us at the forefront of thought leadership in both data and AI technology, as well as the societal considerations associated with these fields. By backing both deep science and service ventures, we continue to support local job creation and investment.
The DDI initiative’s effectiveness is in part due to the early establishment of clear and measurable KPIs, enabling reliable performance-tracking and evidence-based programme adaptation. This includes the ongoing review of our KPI measurement methods and reporting practices to ensure that the information provided continues to be robust, repeatable, and auditable. Recent changes to our reporting methodologies have resulted in amendments to the way that data is presented in this report when compared to previous years.
The DDI initiative has had an outstanding year which is vividly reflected in our KPIs. We continue to perform ahead of plan in all respects:
Five years of fostering
2022/23 was a year of significant milestones: the University of Edinburgh celebrated 60 years of research in computer science and artificial intelligence, and the Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) initiative reached its halfway milestone. Despite some delays in construction works caused by the pandemic, DDI has made excellent progress through the first five years, moving from business case writing to securing the first large-scale Anchor Projects and building and equipping six DDI Innovation Hubs across two universities to become the Data Capital of Europe.
Through the first phase of the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal (CRD), the Data-Driven Innovation initiative has made excellent progress with the capital investment projects. At the end of the government financial year (03/2023), the cumulative capital grant draw-down was at £207m, £78.7m ahead of the original CRD funding profile. Together, the DDI Hubs add 55,000 sqm of innovation space to the City Region.
The focus of the year was on preparing to launch the next phase of the DDI initiative. We have been assessing the strategic direction, governance, and management to unlock the full potential of the DDI platform of six Hubs to ensure maximum leverage for significant investments. We are shifting towards solidifying integrated ways of working, ramping up external engagement to drive inclusive growth, and embedding the drivers of data-driven innovation permanently in the Universities and the region.
In this report, we share success stories across our TRADE KPIs of Talent, Research, Adoption, Data and Entrepreneurship, showcasing the diversity of activities across our ten industry sectors. Available as podcasts, videos, and articles to reflect the variety of the portfolio, case studies provide insight into the essential work of our researchers and partners.
The DDI hubs add
of innovation space to the City Region.
Programme Director’s Report
During 2024, we will be opening the last two buildings for DDI Hubs. Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) is the largest one, located in the iconic former Royal Infirmary Hospital from the late 19th century. EFI will be a new landmark and centre for collaboration and innovation in the city centre. The home base for five of the ten DDI industry sectors, EFI has the broadest educational programme of our Hubs, bringing people, data, and diverse disciplines together in the open, ‘what-if’ environment. The first wings of the building opened in the autumn of 2023, with the whole building becoming ready in spring 2024.
The Usher Institute Innovation Hub will become ready at the start of 2024. It will host health and social care research teams collaborating with partners from public, private and third-sector organisations to deliver data-driven health and social care advances. The Usher Hub is a crucial step in developing the Edinburgh Bioquarter, one of the fastest-growing biomedical innovation areas in the UK. Bioquarter’s vision is to grow into a vibrant mixed-use neighbourhood rapidly, centred around a world-leading community of healthcare innovators.
To secure a permanent position as a data capital, outputs of DDI initiatives and activities must lead to long-term outcomes and lasting impact, evolving after the DDI delivery period ends. We are building on the strong partnerships we’ve established in the first phase of DDI. DDI Hubs are joining forces behind an integrated entrepreneurship strategy, collaborating with the Tech Scaler coordinated by Codebase to deliver against the ambition of the Entrepreneurial Campus report by the Scottish Government and scale up the Edinburgh tech ecosystem to become self-sustainable.
As discussed later in this report, we have also strengthened our collaboration with regional partners to accelerate the delivery of the Regional Prosperity Framework (RPF), intending to launch the Regional Intelligence Hub (RIH). This pioneering collaboration unifies data, analytical insights, and specialised expertise to support inclusive and evidence-informed policymaking on a regional scale. RIH will stimulate greater cooperation and collaboration among governmental institutions, enhance citizen engagement, and promote accountability and transparency in the policymaking process. It achieves this by collecting and linking powerful data assets, engaging leading experts in policymaking, cultivating interdisciplinary expertise and collaboration in the public sector, and establishing a structured process to support the participation of different stakeholders and citizen groups.
The Edinburgh Futures Institute, due to open in 2024.
The Data Education in Schools team has boosted data literacy in more than
The Data Skills Gateway programme has reached around
The Exascale supercomputer is the next generation of computing, capable of performing one billion billion calculations per second. Exascale will help researchers model all aspects of the world, test scientific theories and improve products and services in areas such as drug discovery, climate change, astrophysics, and advanced engineering. The £800m investment was announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in March 2023, following the business case prepared by EPCC, the high-performance computing centre of the University of Edinburgh, with the support of the DDI Initiative Office. A new £31 million wing of EPCC’s Advanced Computing Facility was purpose-built as part of the City Region Deal to house the Exascale. The ACF also hosts the Edinburgh International Data Facility, the computational and data services that EPCC co-designs and operates to support projects from across the DDI initiative.
The National Robotarium
The National Robotarium launch in September 2022 campus attracted national interest. Located at the Heriot-Watt University's Edinburgh campus, the Robotarium collaborates between the two universities, with laboratories in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), Human-Robot Interaction (HRI), and Precision Laser Applications (PLA). It drives entrepreneurship and job creation, offering an ecosystem for industry collaboration, with humans and robots working in partnership. The facility announced a strategic alliance with Tata Consultancy Services on applied engineering and joint research across multiple disciplines, including soft robotics, field robotics, and areas of urgent societal needs, including social and geriatric care, a sector in which the National Robotarium is already well-known.
External evaluations are starting to show the impact of DDI in the region. The Data Capital report by Accenture in April 2023 highlighted the position of Edinburgh as one of the top cities for AI, with The Harvard Business Review ranking the city 5th in Europe on its list of top 50 global cities for AI, highlighting DDI. The impact is visible in entrepreneurship: A FinTech report from January 2023 announced that Scottish fintech companies had received over £305m in funding in 2022, an increase of over 200% on the previous year.
The Advanced Investor Readiness (AIR) programme opened for applications from potential high-growth start-ups. AIR is an intensive development course that equips entrepreneurs with advanced skills and insights for their investment journey. The programme will take place in spring 2024, culminating in the EIE24 technology investor showcase on 1st May.
The DDI Hubs EFI and the Bayes Centre, supported by Edinburgh Innovations, are establishing a new centre for purpose-driven banking, a partnership between NatWest Group and the University of Edinburgh. It will draw on expertise from more than 100 academics throughout the university. The centre builds on previous joint work around technological innovation, harnessing data for public good and climate education.
Building on the success of previous DDI open calls, the Small Grants call supported ten projects promoting social change through innovation. Proposals ranged from using augmented reality to help animal conservation to understanding air quality using bike-mounted sensors, awarding nearly £200,000 of funding.
The first 150 students have joined the fusion teaching programmes of the Edinburgh Futures Institute. Designed to offer maximum flexibility for students, they are proving extremely popular. Multi-disciplinary programmes cover diverse domains such as Future Governance, Education Futures, and Data, Inequality and Society. The MSc on Planetary Health addresses the global issues threatening human, environmental and economic well-being.
The Data Skills Gateway programme is one of our main contributions to the inclusive growth ambition of the City Region Deal. Since 2018, it has reached around 34,500 participants, from school-aged children participating in online learner events to women returners learning to code. The Data Education in Schools team has boosted data literacy in more than 850 schools, creating learners fluent in using data to answer big societal questions and teachers who feel confident to teach data skills. In a partnership with the Scottish Sensory Centre, the team also won the ‘Data for Good’ category in the 2023 British Data Awards for developing British Sign Language gestures for cyber security, computing, and data science in collaboration with deaf people who are also tech experts.
A snapshot of activity from the last five years
To give you a flavour of the incredible work that’s being done we’ve selected 20 case studies and grouped them into our five performance categories. Use the filters to choose where to start.
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