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December Data Download

Christmas is fast approaching so it’s inevitable that we start reflecting on the past year. Given how monumentally rubbish 2020 has been, it’s good to still be able to find some positives. The crisis has certainly demonstrated the importance of well managed, good quality, interoperable data! There have been numerous instances where that’s been brought into sharp focus, from the initial lack of any reliable data on numbers of covid cases, to the debacle over the (mis)use of Excel as a track and trace database South of the border.

Some less bleak positives – over 2020 a number of data cluster companies have raised funding, for example, ethical ad-tech company, Good-Loop, DLT Platform SICCAR (previously Wallet Services) and also Blockchain Technology Partners. Californian tech company Rasa announced plans to open an R&D hub in Edinburgh. Mudano was acquired by Accenture, and AI-driven project management company Sharktower was spun out.

It was also good to see three Scottish Data & AI companies winning a place on TechNation’s Applied AI programme – Machine Labs, Talking Medicines and Continuum. Glasgow-based Bellrock Technologies also won a place on GCHQ’s Innovation Co-Lab.

There have been many examples of companies innovating and forming around the needs emerging from COVID-19. Edinburgh based DataInnovations.AI have won two rounds of InnovateUK funding for their bio safety risk management tool to help businesses safely back to work. Working with Edinburgh Business School, Wallscope created a Tourism Insights Tool bringing together data from  different sources, including search engines, flight information and the Consumer Confidence Index, to assist the hard-hit tourist industry in planning. FeverFreeZone also have an innovative system to help boost confidence, safety and economic recovery through a system of temperature checks and other tests. There are more!

I’m hugely proud of the role of ScotlandIS in working with Scottish Government to kick off Connecting Scotland. This offers support to vulnerable and digitally excluded households in the form of devices, training and connectivity. Phase 2 has recently kicked off, so if you’re aware of or work with organisations in the target demographic, applications can be submitted until 18th Jan.

I’ve also worked with Scottish Government throughout the year to represent data and AI companies in the steering group for the development of Scotland’s AI Strategy. This is due to be published in quarter one next year and has the aim of being practical, tangible and inspiring!

Coming towards 2021, and the impact of the end of the transition agreement is still very much unknown. We have run several events focussing on different aspects of this to help companies be as prepared as possible for the different potential outcomes; I’ve hosted a couple of sessions now where we’ve looked at the impact on international data flows, and what companies need to do. If you’re not sure, then see here for a write up. Since this session, the EU have published new Standard Contractual Clauses, so if you need to update anyway, it’s worth looking into that.

Thinking about plans for next year: in quarter 1, I’ll be running the first “Data innovation clinic” – this will enable early stage companies to get feedback and input from a panel of experts. It’s designed to be lightweight for both panelists and participants. If you’re interested in attending (in either capacity) please get in touch.

I’ll also be continuing with data cluster bi-monthly sessions; the last two were on Innovation Funding and Explainable AI – topics which sparked plenty of debate. In January, I plan to cover internationalising your business.

We are also planning to reprise our annual cluster event on January 27th. Full listing to be confirmed!

As ever, if it’s been a while, or we’ve not spoken and you would like to know more about the cluster and tell me about your business, I’m available for virtual coffees. Drop me an email at And at some point in 2021, I’m looking forward to real, face to face coffees. That’s something to be positive about!

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