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Demand doubles for AI and quantum skills in capital


Key skills are in high demand

Demand in Edinburgh for key digital and software skills such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence have doubled over the past six months, according to new data.

Searches for skills in quantum computing are up 114%, compared to a UK average of 46%, while demand in AI expertise rose 96% against 73% across the UK. In Glasgow, demand for AI jobs rose 70%.

The figures emerged in the latest Tech Talent Tracker from Accenture and coincide with a new AI strategy launched by the Scottish Government.

Michelle Hawkins, managing director for Accenture in Scotland, said: “Whilst the overall technology jobs market in Scotland has been hit heavily by the pandemic, there are significant tech skills that remain in great demand.

“The pace of digital transformation has rapidly accelerated across all industry sectors, making more businesses open to hire tech talent. The resurgence in demand for Al and Quantum Computing skills shows the level of ambition that exists.”


However, despite the surge in enquiries, the data also shows a continuing gulf between tech jobs in London and the rest of the UK.

The analysis shows 41% of all technology-related job postings are for professionals based in London. More than 420,000 technology professionals still cite London as their current location, representing a third of all tech professionals in the UK and despite the rise in home working during the pandemic.  

Edinburgh, the third largest technology hub, is some way behind with nearly 23,000 technology professionals while Glasgow ranks eighth, with just over 15,000 people listed.  

Mark Byrne, head of Applied Intelligence for Accenture, Scotland, said, “The figures for AI and Quantum Computing indicate that Edinburgh and Glasgow remain hubs for data science and innovation in these fields.

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“The pandemic rapidly accelerated digital transformation and taught us that we must all master change.  Bringing together data and artificial intelligence to manage our physical worlds will drive our ability to grow economically and sustainably. 

“The advantage that Edinburgh and Glasgow also have is that both are great work locations in a post Covid world, where the priority on access to outside space and the ability to work remotely has shifted. This coupled with a buzzing and vibrant technology ecosystem in Scotland is making it a real draw.” 

Measures to help Scotland become a leader in the development and use of trustworthy, ethical and inclusive artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are outlined in a new report from the Scottish Government.

The new AI Strategy focuses on ensuring such technology is used for positive effect across the economy and society and it highlights the opportunity to become a world leader in ethical AI.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said: “Artificial intelligence offers huge economic and social potential and with Scotland’s long history of academic excellence in its development we are building on strong foundations.”

Gillian Docherty, CEO of The Data Lab innovation centre, has been appointed inaugural chairman of the Scottish AI Alliance.

Banks wired to tech

Another report from Accenture published today says UK banks now have more boardroom technology experience than their global competitors

More than a quarter (26%) of all UK bank board members in 2020 had professional technology experience, up from 14% in 2015 and now overtaking the US.

The new report, “Boosting the Boardroom’s Technology Expertise – Focus on Banking,” is based on an analysis of the professional backgrounds of nearly 2,000 directors of more than 100 of the world’s largest banks by assets. It shows that banks globally continue to lack technology expertise at boardroom level, despite an increase since the last report in 2015.

Banks are ramping up their technology investments to keep pace with changing consumer demands, such as the growing need for digital interaction and remote working as a result of COVID-19. 

However, bank boardrooms overall lack the technology expertise to minimise the risks and maximise the benefits of their investments.

Accenture recommends that 25% of banks’ board directors should have technology experience. Globally, only one in 10 (10%) directors and CEOs have professional technology experience, up from 6% and 4% respectively from five years ago. One-third (33%) of banks still have no board members with professional technology experience. 

On a positive note, the amount of female board directors with technology experience has grown over the last five years from 19% in 2015 to 33% today. 

UK banks have the highest proportion of technology experience of all surveyed markets and is the only market to meet Accenture’s 25% recommendation, followed by Finland and Ireland (both 23%), and the US, which stands at 19%.

On a wider geographical basis however, North America has on average the higher proportion of technology experience on boards (16%), compared with Europe (8%).

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