While gathering data for our annual Tech Nation report, the most comprehensive analysis of the city clusters powering the UK’s digital economy, we’ve been taking a closer look at Edinburgh. We’ve found that the Scottish capital has thousands of people with skills in areas such as software engineering, data analysis, artificial intelligence (AI), and deep technology.
Some 23,571 people are sharing their skills in these areas across 88 Edinburgh Tech Meetup groups as of March 2018, according to Meetup.com, which is one of 15 data sources being used for the Tech Nation report, due to be released in May.
The city of Edinburgh is the UK’s second-largest financial centre, and was named Europe’s most attractive destination for tech businesses to locate to by European Business Magazine.
It’s no wonder then, that the Scottish capital is home to major international companies such as FanDuel and Future Fifty alumni Skyscanner, which was founded in Edinburgh in 2003 and sold to Chinese tourism group Ctrip for £1.4 billion.
Explaining why he chose Edinburgh to set up Skyscanner, CEO and Co-founder Gareth Williams told Tech Nation: “While we have ten offices across the world, including London and Barcelona, Skyscanner started life in Edinburgh. The thriving digital tech scene in Edinburgh is hugely supportive and collaborative, with a strong sense of camaraderie.”
We saw for ourselves just how successful Edinburgh’s tech industry is on our Tech Nation Listening Tour last month, which involves us travelling to different cities in an effort to seek and collate the views of entrepreneurs.
While collecting data in preparation for the publication of our annual Tech Nation report, we were able to access information which proved just how popular, and active, the Edinburgh tech scene is.
Of the diverse skillsets being shared in the Scottish capital, Software Engineering leads the way, but it is followed by data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and deep tech.
As of March 2018 Edinburgh has;
- Total of 88 active Tech Meetup groups with 23,571 members
- A diverse range of skills being shared, from Software Engineering leading the way, followed by data analytics and AI/deep learning.
- Accessibility to Edinburgh Tech meetup groups is high. 89% of groups have an open membership meaning anyone who is interested can join and only 11% require approval or official membership.
- Comparison to other notable Northern cities
- Manchester; 149 active tech Meetup groups with 60,767 members
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Edinburgh currently has a growing number of AI and big data companies in the city, and according to Scottish Development International, “The potential of the future applications of AI and data technologies has helped to create the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and Edinburgh Data Science, two initiatives focused on bringing the data community together to share best practice in data science.”
Of the total number of tech meetup groups, 19% are categorised as data science/analytics, with Software Engineering the only other group with a bigger total number at 42%. Data science/analytics groups also have over 6,000 members, beaten only by Software Engineering with over 10,000. In comparison, Web Development has under 4,000 members.
FiveAI, a UK startup developing an autonomous driving system, told Business Insider that it is “well on its way” to building self-driving tech and has a team in Edinburgh because of the strong talent the city has to offer. According to City AM, advisors to the startup ‘include experts from Oxford university, the Alan Turing Institute, Edinburgh University’s robotics institute.’
New Upscale company Emotech, who created Olly, the world’s first robot with personality, have also opened their second office in Edinburgh, proving the city has the magnetism to bring in cutting-edge AI businesses.
AI in Edinburgh isn’t new, however. The Department of Artificial Intelligence (DAI) was incorporated into the School of Informatics in 1998 at the University of Edinburgh, along with the Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute (AIAI), the Centre for Cognitive Science, and the Department of Computer Science.
In fact, 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.
Having studied AI in the city, students are well placed to move into tech jobs in the cluster and the practical skills they pick up from The University of Edinburgh include “design and construction of intelligent systems, preparing graduates to work in a variety of specialisms, from fraud detection software to spacecraft control.”
As we transition to become Tech Nation from Tech City UK, we will transform the UK from a series of standalone tech hubs into a powerful national network across eleven regions, including Edinburgh.
As the tech ecosystem has matured, demand has risen for sector-specific programmes that can build on the UK’s competitive advantage. With the agreement of the Treasury, we will work especially hard to accelerate the Fintech sector and the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector.