Tag: edinburgh

Open Day and Why Do We Do Research?

Birthplace of LogarithmsOverview

We had an open day at the university yesterday, and I loved speaking to new candidates and their parents about the opportunities to become the architects of the future. It is within the Internet and the Cloud that we are building a new World, and one which does not differentiate any class or nationality, as it completely inclusive for everyone in the World. Few technologies have ever managed to make such an impact on our lives, and our new Computing candidates will build these systems. In time, too, the Internet will improve our health and social care, and will deliver education to every single person, also providing everyone with a voice and a platform to showcase their talents (I appreciate that it can go the other way, and that it can provide a barrier to these things to, but our new architectures have the chance to improve things, and not see national or physical barriers getting in their way).

The Career for the Future and Edinburgh

Stunning Beauty of Edinburgh
Stunning Beauty of Edinburgh

So why is it so easy to sell Computing as a career, and why come to Edinburgh Napier? Well it’s actually quite an easy … there are so many opportunities just now in Computing, and it is one of the few areas which there is such opportunities, and also that there is such chances to move around within an undergraduate programme. So it’s possible to just tell it how it is.

The other thing is this great city, which provides virtually everything that anyone would want in their studies. It is an educated city, with one of the highest percentage of graduates anywhere in the UK. It’s also a tolerant and all-embracing place, which accepts people from around, and then acknowledges that they make a significant contribution (in a recent survey, 9 out of 10 people in Edinburgh thought that incoming workers made a positive impact – the highest across the whole of the UK). For me, these are great things, but it has so much more: it’s beautiful and culture; it’s manners and friendliness; it’s the history and it’s dignity; it’s the enterprise and innovation, and so many other things. You might question why I say friendliness, well I think it is such as a friendly place – not an in-your-face friendliness, but a respectful friendliness, where there is often a shared love for the place, and for anyone who wants to contribute to it.

So my city is a trump card for an open day, and, yesterday I played it, as I am so proud of this city, and what it is able to do – basically change peoples lives and provide them with a support for every stage of their life. Parents can thus feel happy that they are sending their child to a place which will allow them to grow, but, most of the time, it will be a safe place, where they can learn not only about Computing, but also grow as a person. I appreciate that no city is perfect, and there are risks everywhere you go, but hopefully it’s as safe as any place that they could go. Everything is basically within walking distance, or a short taxi ride, or you can pop on the amazing (and safe) buses that Edinburgh has, or get a flight or train to anywhere in the World.

Why Not More Academics and Researchers at Open Days?

Computing - The Opportunities
Computing – The Opportunities

One thing I’m always disappointed in with open days is that it tends to be the same staff there every time making a contribution, and that there isn’t more staff making a contribution. Surely an Open Day is the chance to showcase teaching, industrial links and research, and how an academic department does things well? Luckily the staff that do turn up are first class at this, and provide a friendly face, and are so helpful in articulating the best way to go with the candidates, whether it be to reassure parents that there children are making an excellent choice coming here, to this city, and picking their course. It is, though, disappointing that there isn’t more contribution, as this is the chance to change someone’s life, and get them to appreciate all the great things that are happening in Computing just now. The software engineers, the security consultants and Big Data analysts are truly the architectures of the future, and without them few industries could exist these days. If we unplug the Internet, and disconnect from social media, and do not use on-line TV, then, okay, there’s no need for them. From where I stand, there is a constant stream – virtually every day – of companies asking for more graduates – so demand can only increase … and Edinburgh is truly a great place to be just now, as we’ve got such great companies who are here for the long-term, and who want to attract the best that our universities and colleges can provide.

I must admit, you get kinda desensitised after a while with general perceptions of institutions, and of league tables, and of research assessment exercises, and open days provide us with the one true time that we can actually show how well we look after our students, and the support we can give them. There’s nothing nicer than seeing a candidate smile, knowing that this is where the want to be, and for their parents to know that their child’s future is in safe hands. One thing I loved yesterday, was that we provided so many ways to student, from direct entry into Year 3 (BEng) to providing a work placement for students, and then providing routes to MSc level and PhD. We are about providing for every type of candidate, and do not want to exclude anyone, no matter their circumstances or background. As someone who has come through a non-traditional way of translating through the education infrastructure, I appreciate this greatly.

Why Do We Do Research?

It's all going to the Internet ...
It’s all going to the Internet …

Why Do We Do Research? … this is a question which has been going round my head, and I cannot find an answer. Please forgive me for adding my own viewpoint to this, as no-one has ever told my why, as an academic, I should do research.I appreciate that it is key in promotions in academia, and that it improves the reputation of the institution, and all these great things, but fundamentally what is the point, as we seem to be fostering a culture where academic research is drifting away from its core function – to teach better.

Just now we have a research assessment (RAE 2014), and it all feels a little like a game sometimes, which departments are playing, in order to maximise their ratings. I appreciate that this is not the case for most, but it can feel like a game, where you are playing your cards to optimize your score. At present it all seems to come down to paper publishing, the higher the quality of the journal, the better the rating. While this is fine, surely this is not really the end point of any research, and what we are asking for, from the taxpayer, is to fund the publishing of academic material in journal, which can have little impact on the economy or contribute to society – surely these are the main reasons that, as a nation, that we do research? But we are missing out one key thing here … surely we do research in order to teach better? We thus do research in order to go into the classroom, and tell students about the great things we are working on, and how relevant the material is, and the areas that are holding back our technology. Unfortunately there is a dilemma that active researchers, especially high active ones, can distance themselves from any form of teaching, and any form of real engagement with schools, open days, graduations, and so on, as they see it as an important part of building up a research career, especially in scoring highly in research assessments. If this is the case, then it is a sad reflection of our academic research environment, and something needs to change. Hopefully, after this current research assessment, things will settle down, and we will see a renewed focus on supporting spin-outs, and in contributing to teaching and all the associated things which should stimulate and encourage our next generation.

Engaging with those outside academia

Once thing that I’ve observed over the past few weeks in some of the events I’ve been too, is that often academia can be so insular, and not engage with anyone outside their own closed area, which means that everything that happens only has an impact within confined walls. For me, in Computer Security and Digital Forensics, the links to those outside computing departments is the key to providing proper impacts. It is law enforcement who need the tools, and it is industry which has the data and the issues to solve, and academia must to everything it can to support knowledge exchange, and use PhD work to address some of the key issues within society, and which long term benefits to the nation. So when an academic team at the end of a PhD try and find a commercial application of the work, and put it in content, in order to find funding, has probably missed an opportunity to bring benefit back to the funders of the work – which is normally the tax payer.

Concluding Remarks

I’ve covered a lot of things here, and it’s really just observations I’ve made over the past few weeks. I really worry the way that we have created a research system, which seems to be forgetting about what we are really trying to do – improve our societies – support innovation and enterprise – stimulate the new generation – protect our ideas and commericalise them – work with others to support knowledge exchange. I can only see large gaps appearing which move researchers further away from what higher education is supposed to provide. I remember, a few years ago, that an academic from a local college came to see me about how he could integrate multimedia into teaching Physics to nurses – not an easy thing. He was so dedicated, that he gave up his work, and went to a university with a top ranking for research – thinking that it would inspire him, and that he would come out of it complete changed. What he observed was a complete and utter disappointing – the teaching was abysmal – both generic and boring, the teachers were not interesting in discussing anything, and often it was lower-level staff who had very little interesting in teaching, and much more interested in getting their research done. While this may be just an isolated example, it does worry me, that there could be a game going on here, which individuals, groups and universities are playing, and you must worry that it is generally not good for students and societies.

We did a Cyber lecture last year, and one of the main comments was “So happy that this is happening, there seems to be little provided by universities to engage with pupils”, so there may be a problem there in terms to placing top academics/researchers in Computing with schools. I also give a plug here for IT4U (IT For You), which aims to integrate schools with university within Computing/IT. At one time there were three universities involved with it in Edinburgh, and now it’s just my own university, and we have even scaled it up … I must admit I am so disappointing, as a tax payer, that universities can walk away from any commitment that they need to make into articulating their subject.

So well done to Edinburgh Napier (our own team here … Frank Grieg, Richard Macfarlane, and many others), Abertay University (Ian Ferguson), SISCA (Martin Beaton), Police Scotland (Eammon Keane), the Scottish Government (Keith McDevitt), and industry sponsors for sparking interest with schools in Scotland, and put something back, in order to showcase our great industries, interesting research projects, and tell our next generation — that they are the architectures of the future of cities, our nation (and, basically, of the World)! From the people who build the city scape of the Old Town and the New Town of Edinburgh, our graduates can build our communities in the same way, but in a virtual World, and help put this great city back where it deserves to be!

I must admit … when I hear someone asking for a workload allocation to attend a school/open day/engagement event, I switch off … it is something that should be done from the heart and not that someone is forcing you to do it.

Oh … and finally … thank you Edinburgh for making my life so much easier.

One Year to Build a New Enterprising Nation

2013-06-02 13.22.00Outline

Last week was great for me, and I feel so positive about the future of my city. My PhD student was awarded his PhD, our spin-out happened, I got a new EU grant, we ran a successful conference event, and so many other good things, so I’m feeling so positive about the future. Things really seem to be snowballing within Scotland, and there is a great feeling of achievement and ambition in the air. I reckon too that we have an amazing opportunity over the next year for every aspect of Scottish society to work together and build a new nation for the next generation – no matter what happens.

I marvel at the people who built the New Town in Edinburgh, and of the scholars who made the city the focus of attention of the whole world. For various reasons we seem to have lost that vision and leadership over the centuries, and now is the time for our leaders to bring it back again, especially for the most beautiful and perfect city in the World – Edinburgh. As someone who has not even made up my mind on how to vote on the referendum (like most other people), I have no interest in making any sort of political statement or influencing anyone in the way that they might vote, but I do want to highlight that something is changing in Scottish Society. There is now a confidence within our businesses and in our cities, which will allow us to take our place on a national stage, and it is a stage which increasingly does not see any national boundaries, or national divides.

Apolitical

I must say I am completely apolitical, and have no interest in party politics, but I do spot an opportunity in the coming year for the business community to work together more closely with a range of partners, and for us to show leadership in showing the way forward. So, for me, it doesn’t matter which way the referendum actually goes, but what I would like to see is a resurgence of leadership in Scotland, and one which is built on enterprise and innovation.

Innovation, Scholarship, Health and Enterprise

For too long we have lost the brightest and best to other nations in the World, but times are changing … and people want to come here, and to become the business leaders of the future. When I first started in academia, most of my graduates left to go down south, as there wasn’t enough jobs for them in Scotland, but things have completely turned around, where we get many companies approaching us for graduates to fill the many positions in their organisations. Also the change is the growth around SMEs, where businesses are growing with great ambitions to tackle major problems, in a way that many large companies would struggle with. With companies such as miiCard and Sitekit addressing federated identity and personal health records, respectively, we are now seeing companies basing themselves here, and focusing on an international market.

I have included Scholarship alongside Innovation and Enterprise in the title of this section, as academia must provide a strong foundation for Innovation and Enterprise to flourish, and academia must try and take every advantage it must to the nation. With academic you have long term stability, which is necessary for glitches in the economy, and provide an enabler to identify the vision for the development into new areas. Isn’t it amazing that a university can gain a leadership across the World within a new area within just a few years. Few businesses would have this opportunity, and it is important that academia in Scotland, focus on the range of income generation activities, from new programmes which focus on up-and-coming areas – such as cybercrime – to bidding for European funding. It is the forthcoming EU-funded Horizon 2020, that Scotland’s universities must show leadership in building the teams to support SMEs in Scotland to be part of collaborative networks, as previous funding has typically gone to academia and large-industry, and you have to wonder whether they can truly provide the focus to actually sustain enterprise, and seek new areas for development. Personally I love working with SMEs, as they always see great benefit when teaming up with collaborators, where large organisations often have internal networks to overcome any weaknesses.

And for Health? Well there’s real hope that the NHS is starting to look after SMEs, and start to collaborate with them, in order to foster new products for an international market. With the TSB funded DALLAS Living It Up community in Scotland we see the seed for a vision the future for health care, where every citizen feels part of it, and is able to contribute. Again the Horizon 2020, SMEs in health care, must stand-up in Scotland, and be part of this new world of health care, and be part of the collaborative networks. It is the drive and focus of SMEs that are required to take-forward health care, and abandoned IT programmes from large industry and the Government have been shown not to work.

So what?

Maybe I’m just a bit more connected than I used to be, but I really feel that there is much more collaboration and vibrancy about the current state of the business community in Scotland. It is one that seems to be built across both the public and the private sector, and there seems to be a “let’s just get on with it” attitude, which is an attitude that Scots often used when they went abroad. For me, it is here now, and, no matter how the referendum goes, we must all play our part and support this nation, and it’s great cities to thrive and contribute to society. Scotland is famed for it’s tolerance – my own city has one on the highest acceptance levels that incomers make a significant impact on our communities –  it’s hard work ethic, and for its enterprise. I always loved the reason that Edinburgh was so beautiful and missed the decimation of the 1970s … that its city councilors liked to talk but never actually done anything (yes … they was plans for a motorway along the Meadows … and down the High Street) … but now is the time for our leaders in the cities to support business development, and allow them to thrive, without throwing rocks in their way, or even sitting back and not doing anything. The growth of Edinburgh Airport must be an important element in this support, and without a forward looking approach, with direct links for business travel, businesses may see the overhead of traveling through other airports as a major cost.

Whereas, in the past, business would place themselves near rivers, to get access to ports, or beside energy supplies … increasingly they are basing their operations on two things … access to expertise and the opportunity to attract and keep the best. For this, Scotland needs to be seen as the place to attract and keep graduates, as they will become the leaders of the future. As a nation that should have punched above our weight, we can on a new World stage, based on the new industries of the future, where innovation and enterprise, as the standard Scottish trait identities, are the drivers. This time we have to keep our own intellectual capital, and attract others to come and live here.

Edinburgh … the road map for a modern city … built on sandstone and innovation

Edinburgh and its place in the World

It is difficult for me to hide my love of Edinburgh, and I strongly believe that we are at the start of a new enlightenment in the City. It will one which will be different from the last one, and where we will see new industries emerge built on innovation and enterprise.

For me I’ve never seen so much activity, and dealt with some many local entrepreneurs, and who have a focus on creating products for international markets. Another key sign for me is the demand for Computing graduates, which is higher than at any time I have ever known, especially with graduates moving into fairly senior roles. While at one time Scottish graduates had to move away to gain their experience, there are more than enough jobs around locally to stop the drain of talent. If Edinburgh does one, it needs to keep the talent that it has nurtured, and attract the finest minds from across the world, and welcome them with open arms.

Offices in the new financial district to the w...
Offices in the new financial district to the west of Edinburgh city centre. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Within Edinburgh there seems to be a strong infrastructure around the industries of current time and of the future. We have Amazon based one one end of Princess Street, and then to have key industry leaders such as Standard Life at the end, and for Dell Secureworks to be somewhere in the middle, we have the bed rock to create a world-class infrastructure, especially if our universities can embrace, and enable collaborations between the major players, and with SMEs. This is a city which was always been cheek-and-jowl, where, in the past, the rich and the poor lived together, often in the same stairwells, and where people were cramped into the confines of the city. As the city grew outside these confines, into the New Town, and beyond, it has kept its eclectic mixture of every type of background existing within its city boundaries, often right in its heart.

I’ve said it before in my previous blog, but one of the things I am proud of in my city is that 90%, in a recent survey, of them thought that incomers significantly contributed to the city. This is something that I strongly agree with, and I believe it is a city which is mostly tolerant, and future looking, welcoming those from around the World to contribute to its culture and its economy.

Hats off to James, and the many others

I see some many companies evolving, many having cut their teeth within the finance industry in Scotland. A great example is miiCard, led by James Varga, who creating a world leading identity product which addresses the problems of current IT infrastructures and aims to created trusted identity provision. James has thus chosen Edinburgh to be the base for his company, and has made the decision to base it right in the center of Edinburgh. This, hopefully, can provide him access to some of the best talent that the Scottish economy can provide. It is a real privilege to get access to their operation, and help in some small way in the development of their product.

For many a business trip to Edinburgh, from anywhere in the World, can often be seen as a pleasure compared with visits to some less impressive city landscapes. A one hour flight from London, and jump in a taxi, and within 15 minutes, you are at miiCard’s office. For those companies who are stuck on an out-of-town industrial unit, they can only dream about having such as privileged work environment.

Well done to the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and Scottish Enterprise (SE)

James is just one example of the entrepreneurs operating in Edinburgh, and it is key that universities do more to enable collaborations with SMEs. We are lucky to have SFC and SE in providing funding for collaborations between SMEs and universities, and often a little seed from an innovation voucher can lead to great things. In Scotland there is also a complete range of funding opportunities for innovation, from £5K innovation vouchers from SFC, onto £40K follow-on innovation vouchers, right up to SMART grants from SE. So anyone with a good ideas has the potential to create the new generation of products.

A key focus for the city is thus to enable the natural synergy between established industries and the public sector to engage with SMEs, and academia and grant funders have a key role in this. Here’s to this fine and elegant city, who has supplied much more to the World, than it has ever asked for.

Postscipt: I am so pleased that the Cloud Security Alliance are setting up their congress in Edinburgh for Sept 2013. Please come along if you are able to:

https://cloudsecurityalliance.org/csa-news/csa-keynotes-emea-congress-2013

And the best place to live in the UK is … of course … Edinburgh

Simply the Best

How many times does Edinburgh have to prove itself as the best place to live in the UK? Cadbury’s has just came out with the stunning result that the happiest person in the UK is Steve, at Teacher, aged 60, and from Edinburgh. So is it true? Well London is a massive economic generator, and is a focus for politics, media, transport, and so on, but for the overall balance for quality of life, surely Edinburgh trumps it in most ways? In competition against most of the other cities in the UK, it wins by a mile, in fact by a Royal Mile. I must admit, I wasn’t born in Edinburgh, but over years, I’ve fallen in love with everything about the city.

Over the years, too, Edinburgh has won so many awards for being the best place to live such as with this quote from the Location, Location, Location programme:

EDINBURGH has been named as the best place to live and work in the UK. Presenters Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer made the announcement last night in a programme which revealed their top ten best and the worst places to live.

Jenny Dawe, the city council leader said: “This result is great news for the city and confirms what we all know – Edinburgh is a great place to live, work, invest and visit.

“The city truly has the best of everything – stunning architecture, fantastic employment opportunities, a vibrant leisure and retail offering, abundant green space, outstanding schools and universities…the list goes on.”

The Locality

Calton Hill

An important factor in living and working in any city, is the amount of time that a person takes in traveling, and in cities such as London, many people can spend many hours traveling on packed trains, with every little in the way of comfort. For someone living in Edinburgh the concept of spending hours on a train, can only mean having to travel to London for a meeting. For me I am 15 minutes away from the centre of Edinburgh, and can reach virtually anywhere in the city within 15 minutes by car. In fact from my hour to the airport is 15 minutes, whereas in London, you would be spending at least 45 minutes to get from the centre of London to the main airports. I must admit, too, that Edinburgh Airport is one of the best airports I’ve been to, and does not suffer from the sprawling nature of many airports. For me, I can walk along a canal to work, and watch the swans and ducks, and the river boats, while contemplating the day ahead.

The Scenery

The High Street

Well what can you say about the scenery … it is quite stunning? It has a castle, some bridges that you would never know that were brights, an old volcano, some amazing parks, some of finest buildings in the World, any number of beach, a botanical gardens, palaces, a World-leading Zoo with pandas, … in fact anything you would want, it’s there to be had. It is also not a place which where everything is the same, to the East, the West, the North, and the South, each of their own personalities, giving any Edinburger the choice of the environment that the best like. It is a well-known trait of people in Edinburgh to live within an area, and not consider ever looking outside it. Ask anyone who starts in a small flat in Bruntsfield, and who moves to larger one in Merchiston, and then moves onto a nice little bungalow in Colinton. It’s a place where you can live and work, and do everything you want, all within the confines of the city boundaries.

Oh, and you have places such as Stockbridge, which was voted as one of the Top 3 places in the UK, and shows that Edinburgh supports a village-type culture within its confines, something that many cities with inner-city problems could gain from observing.

The Education Infrastructure

Edinburgh has long been famed for its educational infrastructure. It has four forward facing universities, each with its own focus, and unique in its provision of its teaching and research. It is this base which provides a key economic driver, and, if you analyse the amount of research income that comes into Edinburgh, it beats most other UK cities. Along with this, the graduates who come here, often want to stay and contribute to the economy. As a researcher, I am also amazing by the attraction of the City to those around World, and who can see the opportunities that it brings. Wherever your have an educational base, you have a long-term stability in the local economy, which can also attract external funding when times are difficult. A university infrastructure also can give you opportunities for the creation of new businesses, especially ones which focus on innovation. While the UK is probably behind the US in this, Edinburgh has a good track record of spinning-out companies, including one which I have been involved with: Inquisitive Systems.

The Climate and Surroundings

Cramond Falls

Well the one thing to remember about Edinburgh is that it is close of the sea, so this can have an effect on the weather, and is in the path of the North Atlantic drift, so it doesn’t get too hot or too cold. In Edinburgh, when the sun shines, it feels the best place in the World. Whether it’s sunning yourself in the Meadows, or off Cramond for a stroll along the breach, or off to the beauty of North Berwick or Gullane .. there’s somewhere for everyone. I personally think it’s in the depth of Winder, that Edinburgh looks best. It’s beauty skies of late November that makes the place look like the most amazing film set that has ever been created. I arrive in Edinburgh in the coldest Winter ever in Scotland, and I have never forgotten about the way that it made me feel. In fact Scotland is such a compact place, that there always great places to go.

The People

The buildings provide an amazing infrastructure, but it is the people of Edinburgh who really make it a great place to live. For many, they know the greatness of the place, and appreciate the opportunity to live in the city. Along with this the great thing about Edinburgh is to meet with so many from different regions of the World. I hope the city keeps with its tolerance and respectability of its pass,  and welcome the smartest and brightest from around the World, as they will provide the city with the intellectual capacity that is required for our new information age society, where innovation and enterprise provide the key drivers for wealth. As an academic, the best part of my job is to meet from students from around the World, and benefit from their viewpoints and aspirations. I deeply regret some of the narrow-mindedness of the current UK immigration policy, especially that it is restricting us from keeping and attracting the best minds to this City. Having lost two researchers in the past few weeks, one of which was a PhD graduate and the other an MSc graduate, I think we are loosing out on supporting a new economy, based on information and innovation.

The Businesses

Picture1I may be wrong, but Edinburgh is a great place to be just now, in terms of innovation and enterprise. There are so many businesses being created, with lots of major companies and SMEs recruiting. With companies such as Rockstar, Skyscanner, Bright Solid, Amor Group, Vacta, miiCard, Flexiant, and so on, innovating and leading on a World stage, there is buzz in the local industry. Along with this we have solid industry leaders such as Sas, Dell Secureworks, and so on, which have setup a strong commercialisation infrastructure in Scotland, and which is benefiting the local business infrastructure. I must admit, after all the years that I have taught, I have never seen such a demand for computing students from local industries.

Along with Education and Science, it has been Finance that has been the a key foundation of the local economy, and Edinburgh has known for its good judgement in financial markets, with companies such as Standard Life creating a long-time financial base. Unfortunately the troubles of RBS tarnished this reputation, but, as far as I can see, things are recovering well, and Edinburgh still has a strong financial base, with newer companies such as Virgin Money, and Tesco Bank, all of whom have been attracted by ability to tap into an experienced workforce, and a good supply of well qualified graduates.

Why has this happened?

Scottish Parliament

Edinburgh stagnated for many years, if not for centuries. It hosted some of the greatest thinkers in the World during the Scottish Enlightenment, where people such as with philosophers like David Hume, and with scientists such as Joseph Black and Robert Hutton. While it’s beauty has always been there, it’s standing on a world stage was reduced from the Acts of Union, in 1707, where Edinburgh lost control of its own destiny. It has managed to keep its educational infrastructure, and it is from this base it is now thriving, from World-leading research groups, to innovative teaching, you’ll find it here. A core of any modern city is the supply of high-quality gradates, as, in this Information Age, it is intellect that is one of the key resources that companies require access to. At one time business would locate to be near natural resources, whereas today it is often human resources that is the key factor for the location businesses. So for Edinburgh, it has one of the most educated cities in the UK, with one of the highest number of graduates of any city.

The creation of the Scottish Parliament has been possibly the one great thing that has allowed Edinburgh to thrive. For the first time, we could on the key issues that related to the nation, especially on its great cities. As someone who was involved in some of the debates around Devolution in 1979, the way that the Scottish Parliament has done its business has been an inspiration.

And what evidence is there?

One of the best places for the statistics which re-enforce Edinburgh’s status as the best place to live in the UK is at:

http://www.edinburgh-inspiringcapital.com/pdf/Edinburgh%20by%20Numbers%202013-14%20Final.pdf

Some highlights:

  • The universities in Edinburgh have over 57,000 students registered each year. A pot of gold for the future . with over 14,000 outside UK.
  • 46% of residents in Edinburgh have a degree or above .. how good is that as for a modern city .. which can attract international investment?
  • The number seeking Job Seekers allowance is a good sign of economic activity. Edinburgh has by far the lowest of all the major UK cities.
  • Edinburgh is one of the least polluted of all the UK cities … and it’s reducing … half of what it is in Glasgow.
  • It’s not as rainy as you think … in Edinburgh, the average rainfall is about one-third of the average. for Scotland .
  • 90% of residents in Edinburgh agree that people from different backgrounds interact positively in Edinburgh. It should be 100%, but 90% is pretty good for a modern city which embraces those from different backgrounds.
  • When it comes to disposable income in the UK … Edinburgh and London lead the way … by a long way!
  • 50% of the population are under 35 years old, which bodes well for the future.
  • The residents are happy … with the highest score of happiness (whatever that actually means!) of any major city.

So what’s next?

Well … this is the time for business leaders, academics, MSPs, and those who can influence the future of Edinburgh, to step forward, and make this city great again! Let’s create an economy based on Science, Innovation and Enterprise, and support the next enlightenment for this City. Our businesses must be allowed to thrive, and we must promote and foster innovation wherever possible.

Can Scotland follow Mark Zuckerberg’s Drive to Reverse the Brain Drain?

Why?

I am lucky enough to live in a first class city (Edinburgh) which has a thriving culture, and where you can meet people from many different cultures and backgrounds. As an academic, one of the best parts of my job is to deal with students from all over the world. I’m also lucky to work in a vibrant subject area (Computing/IT) which has a high demand for its skills. It is with this background that I worry that we are stopping the best brains in the World coming to live and work in Scotland, and be part of the building the next generation. From what I can see there are so many restrictions placed on high-quality non-EU graduates from working in Scotland. As a country which has provided the world with some of the best immigrants, such as Alexander Graham Bell and Andrew Carnegie, it’s about time that we tried to do the same as other countries have done.

A few years ago the Scottish Government had a positive policy on attracting smart people to Scotland, and especially highly qualified graduates in the key skills areas. For this there was nothing better than seeing some of my excellent graduates from India or China getting high-quality jobs in industry, and contributing to the wealth of the county. Personally, in terms of software development and in maths, the talent from India and China provide some of the best recruits that any university research team can ask for.

And to Sidney Michaelson …

I was lucky enough last week to introduce a lecture on quantum computing at the Edinburgh Science Festival for the Sidney Michaelson Memorial Lecture, and it was in researching Sidney that I began to realise what can be created from a simple foundation, along with some of the best minds that the world has.

Sidney came to Edinburgh at the start of the 1960s, from London, at a time when Computers cost many millions of pounds to buy, and had a massive memory capacity of 1 MB (yes … 1 mega byte). It was a time when running multiple programs at the same time was a major challenge, and one which required a great deal of research. Along with this computers were maintained by technicians with white coats, and who would be the only ones trusted to load the FORTRAN 77 punch cards into the mainframes.

After growing up in the East End of London, and then graduating from Imperial College, Sidney left London and came to Edinburgh just at the time when the Computer Unit split into a Department of Computing and into a Computer Support Unit. He then became the first Professor of Computing in the University of Edinburgh, and also lead the new Computing Department. Over the years, Sidney probably did more to promote Computing as a disciple than most others. In the days when Games Designers and Cybercrime Consultants are the new rock-stars of the industry, it is difficult to remember that, in the past, Computing and IT professionals were often seen as code monkeys and computer technicians.

It was from these roots that he created a world-leading infrastructure in Computing research, and one which was able to attract researchers from all other the world. I wonder, though, in these days, whether Sidney could have built such as a World-leading infrastructure, especially with the restrictions placed on non-EU nationals from staying in the country.

And so to Mark …

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg has just started an initiative which aims to turn-back the US policy on visa restrictions, and he aims to use this to attract the best brains in the World to come and live in the US. It is an initiative which is backed by many of the major IT companies, such as Google and Linkedin, all of which are struggling to recruit with such an increasing demand for Computing skills. If you add this to the problems that US Universities have in retaining talented researchers, we can see the problems that the UK faces too. Remember that talented researchers become the spin-out creators, that become the world-leading companies. The eagerness to succeed in a new country is often a driving force that can provide the foundation for great things – and one which has benefited the US many times over.

In terms of the success of the US, much of it can be attributed to the ability to attract talent from around the World, and use that as a platform for innovation and enterprise. For this he quotes:

“To lead the world in this new economy, we need the most talented and hardest-working people,”

and

“We need to train and attract the best.”

As we move into an age where Intellectual Property (IP) is the key to commercial success, he then states that:

"Immigrants are far more likely than natives to study science and engineering and more likely 
      to produce innovations in the form of patents"

So What?

Surely, as a country, we should be thinking ahead, and starting to attract people to create the next enlightenment? I don’t care if it is a Scottish or a UK Government policy, but we are in real danger of loosing out on innovation and enterprise culture. As a solution … we perhaps need to try and influence our policy makers that the debate is perhaps rather more complex than just opening up our borders to anyone and anybody?

John Napier

The world is changing, where, in the past, factories were placed near water and energy supplies in order to provide access to the required resources, to one where it is the access to high-quality graduates that is often a major factors for our IT-enabled world. So why does a company decide to be based on a high rent office space in the middle of a city … well it’s mainly to do with the fact that high-quality graduates are keen to work and live within vibrant cities? If universities cannot provide the supply, we cannot build the types of cities which can thrive on an international basis … and for me Edinburgh has done it in the past, and can do it again. It is to the legacy of Sidney, and to the influence of Mark, that we can hope that we can start to build a new city based on innovation and enterprise. Did you know that Edinburgh has the high percentage of graduates of any other city in the UK, and that it has the highest ratio of start-ups per head of the population in the UK? People come to Edinburgh, and most love it, and don’t want to leave, so let’s support the new wave of innovation, and provide ways for the best talent to stay here.

I wasn’t born in Edinburgh, and maybe that’s one of the reasons I love it, but as I walk around the streets that we built by the visionaries that created the New Town, and who led the great advances in science … whether it is John Napier or James Maxwell Clark … I am inspired to help in any way possible, and one way is to provide ways for people with great ideas to live here, and thrive.

Okay, I started off with Scotland, and ended-up with Edinburgh, well Scotland’s core strength comes from its great cities, and if they thrive the rest of the nation will too. Look at the success of London, and how that provides the such as focus for the UK economy, and so can it be for Edinburgh … my beautiful city!

My new proposal for a slogan for Edinburgh City is (taken from Mark’s quote):

“To lead the world in this new economy, we need the most talented and hardest-working people,”