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Event on data skills

Scotland urged to embrace AI to future proof economy

Tracy Black

Tracy Black: culture of innovation (pic: Terry Murden)


Business, government and academia joined forces yesterday to promote data skills in the workforce and ‘future proof’ the Scottish economy.

Trade, Investment and Innovation Minister Ivan McKee joined representatives of CBI Scotland and the University of Edinburgh to assess the opportunities and challenges presented by artificial intelligence and data science.

Speaking at the University’s new Bayes Centre, Mr McKee said: “Scotland is well placed to be a global leader in the development of artificial intelligence and other digital technologies.

“These emerging trends present exciting opportunities for Scotland and can be a key driver for growth and productivity.”

He said the Scottish Government has committed £48 million to a National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland to help accelerate innovation by enabling manufacturing companies to trial and test new processes, applications and technologies such as automation.

CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said: ““We’re delighted to be working with partners in business, government and the education sector to promote a real culture of innovation here in Scotland.

“By better understanding how data science and artificial intelligence can transform business offerings, we can put Scottish companies on the front foot when it comes to outcompeting their international rivals.

“Today’s event is a great opportunity to showcase the brilliant initiatives being undertaken by Edinburgh University and some of Scotland’s most forward-thinking companies.

“But while there are huge positives to the technology revolution, we must deal sensitively with how that will impact workplaces. We need to understand both the opportunities and risks, while ensuring that a culture of adoption is matched with a strategy for imbedding good practice.”

Professor Charlie Jeffery, senior vice-principal, University of Edinburgh said: “Today’s event comes as the University of Edinburgh embarks on an ambitious set of industry engagement targets through our involvement in the City Region Deal.

“Working with partners, we aim to increase data skills within the workforce and tackle challenges across industry and society through data-driven innovation.

“It’s vitally important that we discuss the opportunities and challenges of AI and automation in the emerging data economy, so I’m delighted to host CBI Scotland in our new Bayes Centre, where much of our data-driven innovation activity will take place.”

Sana Khareghani, Head of the Office of AI, BEIS/DCMS, UK Government, also addressed the event.

From chatbots to intelligent recommendations, the event focused on unpacking complex terminology and showing a range of practical ways that AI technology could be used by businesses in Scotland.

On the issue of automation, the discussion centred on both the positive contribution that automation can make to improving productivity and the need to ensure that Scotland adopts a partnership approach to technological change in the workplace that involves consultation between employers, workers and other major stakeholders.


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