More than 80 tech meetup groups are thriving in Edinburgh, helping the Scottish capital to become one of the UK’s fastest growing centres for technology startups, according to data compiled by Tech City UK.
Tech City UK’s chief executive Gerard Grech visited Edinburgh as part of the organisation’s listening tour and met with startups including ShareIn and Machines With Vision to talk about what Edinburgh startups need to help achieve their ambitions. Tech City UK data revealed that in 2018 some 23,571 people are sharing their tech skills through 88 Edinburgh Tech meetup groups, helping to put Edinburgh on the map as one of the UK’s most active tech centres.
Edinburgh is well-known as the home to billion pound tech businesses like Skyscanner and FanDuel but the city’s strength and depth in software engineering, data analysis, artificial intelligence (AI), and deep technology is attracting more companies to the city and persuading more startups to base themselves there, according to the data on meetings which is supplied by Meetup.com.
Grech 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 $1bn 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.”
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, followed by web development (around 3,800) and UI/UX design (almost 2,000).
The abundance of skills in Edinburgh has led to a surge in the number of tech companies in the city. Some 363 tech startups were incorporated in Edinburgh in 2017, according to last year’s Tech Nation 2017 report.
Many of these new companies are focused on Artificial Intelligence, which is being billed as the next great frontier in the technology industry. 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.
Edinburgh’s AI companies are attracted in part by the city’s prestigious university, which boasts the UK’s longest established centre for AI. The Department of Artificial Intelligence (DAI) was incorporated into the School of Informatics in 1998 at the University of Edinburgh, along with the Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute (AIAI), the Centre for Cognitive Science, and the Department of Computer Science.Today the DAI is widely regarded as one of the best AI research facilities in the world.
Local companies are able to easily draw on the University of Edinburgh’s students when hiring for new roles. Skyscanner, for example, is situated less than a mile from the main campus and counts dozens of Edinburgh graduates among its employee base.
Skyscanner, CEO and cofounder Gareth Williams, said: “While we have ten offices across the world, including London and Barcelona, Skyscanner started life in Edinburgh. The thriving digital tech scene in Edinburgh is hugely supportive and collaborative, with a strong sense of camaraderie.”
The openness of Edinburgh’s groups is one of the main reasons for their popularity: 89% of them have an open membership model, meaning anyone who is interested can join.