Tech 100: ‘We are only scratching the surface of the opportunities for us to lead and exploit capability’

Written by Gillian Docherty on 1 February 2017 in Comment

Gillian Docherty, CEO of The Data Lab, on hopes to create a step change, starting with next month’s DataFest

Gillian Docherty - Image credit: The Data Lab

The rate and pace of technological change, the never-ending articles about artificial intelligence, robotics and self-driving cars underpinned by various aspects of data science means we are only scratching the surface of the opportunities for us to lead and exploit this capability. 

As a self-confessed tech gadget geek, I had my pre-order in for Amazon Echo months before the UK launch and have enjoyed Alexa joining us.

However, an unintended consequence is now having a shopping list full of chocolate, sweeties and ice-cream as my six-year-old daughter asks Alexa every day to add these to my shopping list.


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She is growing up in a world where technology driven by voice and gesture is normal.

Data underpins her current and future world so it is fantastic that my team and I are involved in helping organisations exploit data in new ways and creating the opportunities for her and those a little older have exciting career opportunities right here in Scotland.

Another year in The Data Lab and there has been some very exciting activity and engagement across Scotland and beyond. 

The awareness of the Innovation Centre programme has increased significantly, which has led to many opportunities for us to get engaged and support interesting projects, build new skills programmes and grow the data community across Scotland. 

We are also getting very excited about DataFest, a week-long festival of data based on the theme #DataChangesEverything!

We have events and activities running across Scotland from fringe events in Ayrshire College to a travelling data art exhibition, a deep-learning workshop to a two-day international data summit.

Our community told us to be bold and increase our ambition on what we could achieve with DataFest and with a few weeks to go it is looking like we will have an outstanding week with visitors and speakers from around the world whilst we share some of the fantastic things going on in Scotland.

Besides organising DataFest, we have continued to support and invest in innovative data science projects in many different industry sectors. 

I have some favourites, which I hope will not only lead to business opportunity but can help change people’s lives. 

A recent project we have supported is with Albyn Housing Society, RGU, Carbon Dynamic and NHS Highland.

The project will collect data from sensors installed in specially designed ‘fit homes’. The data will then be analysed using state-of-the-art data science algorithms to identify behaviours linked to increased fall risk.

With falls currently costing the NHS over £2bn and four million bed days each year, it is hoped the resulting system will help residents live well and independently in their homes for longer, prevent hospital admissions and even enable early discharge.

Another different project was with Amiqus, a legal tech software company, which was set up in Scotland in 2015. Its aim is to provide consumers and SMEs with an affordable alternative to court.

With one million cases going unresolved in the UK each year due to one in three people not being able to find or afford legal advice, Amiqus offers free access to legal information through open data.

By creating software to analyse legal information, Amiqus can predict the outcome of claims and disputes to help avoid court.

Amiqus wants to supply this data to individuals and small businesses for free to support and aid their cases.

As we help organisations understand the opportunity to use data in new ways, we need to make sure we have the right talent and skills base to exploit the opportunity.

With some fantastic support from the Scottish Funding Council we increased our sponsored Data Science MSc participants from forty to ninety and we are currently working with MBN solutions to find internship project opportunities for these talented students. 

When one of our participants on our data science boot camp in September commented ‘I wish you had a course for my boss’, we knew we had to create something to enable our business and public sector leaders understand the opportunity, know where to start and how to build solid business cases for investment in new data projects.

We have created an executive education programme, which will launch during DataFest.

If we can help thousands of business leaders understand the opportunity and potentially the threat of not using data then hopefully we will see a step change leading to creation of more wealth, company growth, public sector benefits and significant growth in jobs.

If we keep our ambitions high and continue to support and invest, I hope my daughter and her classmates will have lots of exciting opportunities to be involved in projects and companies changing the world from right here in Scotland.

Gillian Docherty is CEO of The Data Lab, an innovation centre focused on helping Scottish industry to capitalise on a growing market opportunity in data science. If you would like to know more about DataFest check out



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