SMEs offered funds to boost data skills

Written by Jenni Davidson on 19 February 2021 in News

Smaller firms in Scotland offered access to new sources of support

Credit: Michael Mandiberg/CC BY-SA 2.0 

Two new funding schemes have been launched to help small businesses in Scotland improve their use of data.

The programmes will be run by The Data Lab, Scotland’s national innovation centre for data and AI, using part of the £1m additional funding awarded by the Scottish Government in December.

The first, Data Skills for Work, is intended to provide training for the SME workforce to upskill and reskill in data-related areas. The programme prioritises support for workers in jobs that are being changed by automation, women returning to the workplace, people with disabilities and BAME communities.

Launched in Edinburgh and south-east Scotland through the city region deal, it has already supported 70 people since the first round of funding was announced in December, but the additional funding means that up to £100,000 in additional data skills credits will now be rolled out across Scotland.

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The funding is open to both employers and training providers, with £40,000 to be distributed to SMEs in Scotland in small grants of between £500 and £5,000 towards the cost of data-related training and another £60,000 available for training grants of up to £20,000 to enable providers to offer free training places for staff of SMEs.

Up to £300,000 will be allocated for the second scheme, an internship programme offering small grants to allow SMEs and start-ups to host a master’s student who can undertake a short data science project to benefit the business. The students, who are currently studying data science, AI and data engineering through The Data Lab’s MSc programme, will help the organisation by bringing the latest industry knowledge and skills, while the students themselves will benefit from getting work experience during the global pandemic.

Funds will be allocated to the first 60 SMEs that confirm a student/project match and businesses are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, although the closing date is not until 31 March. The placement programme is open to any Scottish organisation looking to include data science technologies in their work, with students available for 8-12 week placements from June 2021.

Organisations that are not eligible for the SME grant funding can still host a student for the summer.

Gillian Docherty, CEO of The Data Lab, said: “The grants are designed to support data literacy amongst companies in Scotland, which can hopefully pave the way for a greater understanding of how data and AI can support businesses, in addition to helping those who are eager to upskill or reskill for career diversification and progression. The value of data for business is huge, though it still a largely untapped potential for many companies – particularly SMEs and start-ups which often need external support at the earlier stages. As such, funding designed to support these organisations via access to our creative, inspiring student cohort is the perfect way to benefit both businesses and those getting ready to enter the workforce.”

The Data Lab said the remaining funds from the Scottish Government’s financial support would be allocated to services aimed at helping businesses invest in data analytics and AI.


About the author

Jenni Davidson is a journalist at PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, where this story first appeared. She tweets as @HolyroodJenni.

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