Heriot-Watt and University of Edinburgh work together to tackle digital skills gap



Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh are joining forces to tackle Scotland's digital skills gap.

In a new initiative, the two universities will work together to train 100,000 people in data skills and help 1,000 organisations through data.

The plan is part of the recently-announced Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

The new project will see the training of 100,000 people in data skills over the next decade, from computer science specialists to traditional jobs that will increasingly use data.

It is estimated that Scotland needs around 13,000 extra workers each year with data skills as the workplace is transformed.

The Scottish Government's Digital Strategy, published in 2017, included plans to tackle this digital skills gap while growing the Scottish economy.

Together, the two universities will increase the provision of data science teaching for their students, and support schools and colleges across the region to provide digital skills teaching and training.

The region's supercomputing capabilities will also be strengthened with investment in a data analysis facility, which will help 1,000 organisations use data to innovate within their sectors.

Professor Richard A Williams, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, said: “By working in partnership we can ensure our city community can prosper and achieve its obvious potential as the leading international research hub for digital innovation. Our frontier research and educational skills in digital technology and its application in artificial intelligence and robotics are already shaping and driving the future and taking Scottish innovation to the world.”

Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, said: “This exciting project – backed by £270m of UK Government investment – will ensure that the UK leads the world in technologies of the future and benefits from the economic growth opportunities this brings.

“By giving 100,000 people, and 1,000 companies, the skills and capability they need to drive innovation through big data and artificial intelligence, this partnership working will help maximise the potential of these sectors – a key goal of the UK Government's Modern Industrial Strategy.”

Professor Charlie Jeffery, Senior Vice Principal, University of Edinburgh, added:

“The University's strengths in data science have been driving innovation in the public and private sectors, for the past decade and more, through our research and the skills our graduates bring into the regional economy. The City Region Deal will now give us the capacity to do much more across a wider range of sectors, including healthcare, robotics and fintech. But perhaps the most important part of the Deal is our commitment to ensure people in the region can build the skills to flourish in the data-driven economy.”

The £1.3bn Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal was announced by the Prime Minister and First Minister at the University of Edinburgh on 7 August.

It aims to drive growth for everyone across the area and includes investment in transport, housing, culture and skills and employability.