How the Edinburgh International Data Facility can unlock new opportunities

Ritchie Somerville, Data Driven Innovation Programme, explains how the launch of EIDF represents a unique opportunity to develop new ways of investigating how data can underpin improvements across public policy-making, the operation of companies, and the delivery of services. EIDF can also empower individuals to explore what data means for them.

A wide range of use cases were imagined during the development of the Data Driven Innovation (DDI) Programme and I hope they will stimulate researchers, industry and government, in fact all potential users, to explore how EIDF can support innovation and new opportunities.

Here are some examples of early use cases.

  • Artificial Intelligence in healthcare for the early detection of disease
  • Agritech: establishing an IoTag for livestock
  • Applying artificial intelligence to data analytics and simplifying adoption
  • Space and Satellite predictive capabilities for sustainable agriculture 
  • Human Assistive Robotic Living Observatory (HARLO) 
  • Design thinking: design informatics programme with a large financial organisation 
  • Enabling better access to finance for SMEs and individuals 
  • PublicTech: smart buildings, smart services
  • PublicTech: digital twinning to support scenario modelling.

These could all have different origins, but will most likely begin with one of the five Innovation Hubs that are being developed as part of the wider DDI Programme. The general conditions are likely to be similar whether they develop from existing research, or an organisation that has approached the University for support with an existing challenge, or a discussion at a conference, or an industry-led challenge funded approach such as the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. 

Digital twinning

DDI use cases will all involve someone with a challenge who needs help in applying data science approaches to data that they either already have or to a dataset they would like to access. I will use the example of digital twinning to illustrate the enormous potential of EIDF in enabling data innovation.

There is increasing interest in the potential of employing a digital twin (a digital replica of physical assets, processes, people, places, systems, or devices) for various modelling purposes. If we take the Scottish town planning system as a theoretical example, EIDF has three core attributes to enable the success of a digital twin: capability, capacity, and competency.

Capacity. The base data required to create the “model” of the planning “(eco)system” is held by a variety of stakeholders, each with their own unique perspective on particular parts of the system. Few currently have the capacity within their organisations to host all the data for such a model in addition to their day-to-day operational needs, or the capacity to tolerate this form of innovation “test”. EIDF has been designed exactly for this type of data hosting and to build the computational models required to test this form of new value proposition. This capacity links to…

Capability. Each stakeholder brings their own value proposition and knowledge to the question of how to build the picture of the system, and this then needs to be translated into the computational model that will represent the system. EIDF has the capabilities to wrangle data into the forms that will allow it to be used for such a model, which are often different from the forms in which it was originally captured. To do this, EIDF must bring together experts in different subject matters and EPCC’s technically-skilled staff. This is a rare capability, which links to…

Competency. When developing projects such as a Digital Twin for Planning, the DDI Programme wants to see how we can develop and grow competency in the organisations that the University of Edinburgh works with. This is to empower them to make better use of the data in their organisations, both as commissioners of work and in their own operations. Developing competency requires the ability to occasionally make mistakes and learn from them. As with all forms of experiment, having a “safe place” to learn is vital, and EIDF has this competency which it will share and develop in others.

With the Hubs of the DDI Programme coming online through to 2024, there will be many opportunities to develop new approaches as the Programme itself develops. It will be for us all to explore how we can make use of the new capacity and capability of EIDF, and each develop new competencies.

Further information

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Ritchie Somerville, Head of Strategy, Data Driven Innovation Programme

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