Meetup groups are helping Edinburgh surge ahead as a hub for tech startups, putting the city on track towards its vision of becoming the Data Capital of Europe.

Some 23,571 people are sharing their skills through 88 Edinburgh tech meetup groups, according to a survey by Tech City UK, a government-backed organisation which aims to help digital companies to grow through a series of programmes, research and events.

Gerard Grech, Tech City UK’s chief executive visited Edinburgh as part of a listening tour with startups to talk about what the new firms need to help achieve their ambitions. He said: “Edinburgh is one of the jewels in the crown of the UK’s tech sector as seen in the success of its very own $1 billion unicorns, Fanduel and Skyscanner. The tech community here is boosted by the great universities in and around the city and it is great to see that data science and analytics – one of the hot trends in tech right now – is becoming a significant shared skill in the city.”

Behind Edinburgh’s billion pound tech businesses is a hub of knowledge and new talent and a supportive startup culture. As well as the globally renowned School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh, the city is also home to Heriot-Watt University and Edinburgh Napier University. Specialist organisations include CodeClan, the UK’s first digital skills academy, and The Data Lab, an innovation centre dedicated to unlocking the full potential of data analytics. The city also hosts established technology businesses such as Craneware, Amazon Development Centre Scotland, and Microsoft’s UK Technology Centre.

According to Tech Nation UK 2017, Edinburgh was the fastest growing tech hub in the UK in 2017, with 17 per cent of the UK’s high-growth firms and 25,109 digital workers. Some 363 tech start-ups were incorporated in Edinburgh last year and counting, thanks to the input of workplaces such as CodeBase, the UK’s largest technology incubator with more than 100 tech companies, along with Techcube, The Melting Pot and Creative Exchange.

A collaborative tech environment, reinforced by a diverse programme of annual events such as Engage, Invest, Exploit (EIE), Scotland’s premier technology investor showcase, is helping feed the growth. Other regular meetups and events include Heroic Entrepreneurs, Lean Agile Edinburgh, Startup Grind, Investing Women and A Day with The Angels. The openness of Edinburgh’s groups is one of the main reasons for their popularity, with 89 per cent of them working on an open membership model. The city’s strengths in software engineering, data analysis, artificial intelligence (AI), and deep technology are all being enhanced by this supportive ecosystem, according to the data on meetings supplied by Meetup.com.

Edinburgh’s developer ecosystem expanded by 8 per cent in the second half of 2017, and now accounts for 7 per cent of the city’s workforce. Software engineering is the main skill being shared across Edinburgh tech meetup groups, with around 12,000 people claiming to possess programming skills. Data science/analytics was the next most shared skill, with around 6,000 people claiming to possess expertise in this area – indeed, there has been a meteoric rise in Edinburgh’s data science community, which grew by 19 per cent in 2017. Edinburgh University and its partners have committed to train 100,000 people in the application of data across the region’s major industry sectors over the next 10 years, as the city aims to become the Data Capital of Europe. Other meetup group sharing included web development (around 3,800 people) and UI/UX design (almost 2,000).

Artificial Intelligence is another major growth area for the city. Indeed, several venture-backed London AI firms — including autonomous driving startup FiveAI and AI robot developer Emotech — have expanded to Edinburgh to capitalise on the city’s talent pool. The University of Edinburgh’s Department of Artificial Intelligence (DAI), which was incorporated into the School of Informatics in 1998, is widely regarded as one of the best AI research facilities in the world.

Graeme Smith, Managing Director, Amazon Development Centre, said: “The University of Edinburgh is top-rated for computer science, delivering world-leading and internationally excellent research…We’ve found that people want to come from all over the world to live and work here.”

 

(via The National, Silicon Republic, Invest in Edinburgh, Business Cloud)