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Highlands and Islands digital projects get government backing

Published: 11/03/2019

Digital Economy Minister Kate Forbes today opened the Highlands and Islands DataFest Fringe events, backing the work being done to support local businesses in maximising digital opportunities.

Studies have indicated that the ‘data opportunity’ has the potential to deliver an estimated £20 billion in business benefits to Scotland’s economy between 2015 and 2020.

Ms Forbes highlighted the recent Phase 2 funding that is being made to support The Data Lab, Scotland’s data innovation centre, with HIE contributing £500,000, alongside £1 million from the Scottish Government’s Digital Directorate, £2.5 million from Scottish Enterprise and up to £9.5 million from the Scottish Funding Council.

Phase 2 of The Data Lab will see the creation of an Inverness The Data Lab hub (or TDL²), being supported by HIE and The Data Lab. TDL² hub will be co-located with HIE’s Innovation and Technology team in Inverness and will focus on data-driven innovation across Scotland’s rural digital economy.  The hub will be the fourth Data Lab location in Scotland along with Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

In addition to the creation of the hub, a TDL² staff member based in Inverness will focus on data science skills and talent, events and new ambitious collaborative projects. Local businesses will also have access to exciting new national and international contacts and opportunities. The hub will have a specific focus on developing data talent in collaboration with Scottish universities and industry.

Over the next week, the Highlands and Islands DataFest Fringe festival of data innovation will take place at #hellodigital at An Lòchran in Inverness. Events include a discussion about the impact of technology on the legal profession, how tourism companies can use technology to boost their businesses and advice for firms looking to up-skill and identify future talent. Sessions will also include a presentation from Codeclan, Scotland’s only SQA-accredited digital skills academy, and their expansion to Inverness

Digital Economy Minister Kate Forbes said: “I am delighted to be launching the Highlands and Islands DataFest Fringe week. It emphasises the importance of collaboration in order to maximise the opportunities of data innovation. In particular, it is fantastic to be announcing the next phase of the new hub for the Data Lab, Scotland’s data innovation centre, here in Inverness which will help develop the rural digital economy locally as well as nationally. All of this is helping to fulfil the Scottish Government’s vision that data, digital and technology can be used to stimulate economic growth across the country.”

Theresa Swayne, senior development manager (Digital) at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, added: “We are delighted to be bringing The Data Lab (TDL) to the Highlands and Islands through the creation of the 4th Data Lab hub in Scotland and HIE’s investment in the national five-year programme.  The opportunities from the data revolution are enormous and we want to ensure that the Highlands and Islands is best placed to exploit them.

“Our new relationship with The Data Lab Innovation Centre provides our businesses and communities with access to world class support to develop data science knowledge, skills and data driven innovation.  Events like DataFest19 are an opportunity to bring the topic of data to life and HIE are again happy to support Fringe events as part of the UK’s first two-week festival of data.”

Gillian Docherty, CEO of The Data Lab, said: “We are very excited about the new TDL2 Hub in Inverness. It is fantastic to have HIE as a key partner for phase 2 of The Data Lab, and we look forward to expanding our joint work further to support the community in the region on their digital journey. We are delighted to have the Highlands and Islands Fringe festival back for DataFest19, and I am sure that this week will be an excellent platform for inspiration and collaboration.”


Find out more about DataFest Fringe events at

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