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The multiple ways AI is transforming industries in Scotland

28 Nov 2023 • 5 minute read

Learn how artificial intelligence (AI) innovations are making a significant difference in Scotland.

Uses of artificial intelligence (AI) are growing across a range of industries in Scotland, with a multitude of potentially transformative applications. 

Several innovative projects are already enhancing industrial processes and improving human well-being, while also tackling environmental challenges. 

AI initiatives underway in Scotland

According to GlobalData, the worldwide AI market is projected to be worth $383.3 billion in 2030, up from $81.3 billion in 2022. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.4%.

Several smart initiatives and AI projects are already underway in Scotland. One example of the Scottish push to embrace AI was the creation of The Data Lab. The publicly funded organisation helps the data and AI community grow in the country.

Alongside this, the AI Alliance was set up between The Data Lab and the Scottish Government. The alliance aids the delivery of Scotland’s AI Strategy and enhances collaboration throughout the country. With the diverse potential applications, the official AI Strategy emphasises the importance of ethical uses to ensure trustworthiness. 

Advanced healthcare capabilities from AI 

AI holds many benefits for healthcare. An AI-assisted mammography trial in Aberdeen successfully discovered early-stage breast cancer in a patient. With a nationwide shortage of radiologists, accelerating processes in healthcare is a prime example of how AI can help. 
Furthermore, AI algorithms are analysing extensive health databases to spot trends and patterns. For example, further developing diagnostic capabilities for illnesses such as liver fibrosis, which is common in Scotland. 

Smart technologies are also helping to diagnose bowel cancer. With the clinical capsule endoscopy (CCE), the patient swallows a capsule that contains cameras. As the capsule passes through the intestines, pictures are taken. These images are analysed by an AI model built by scientists from The Data Lab, which provided funding for the project.

The process is far less invasive than a traditional colonoscopy. Patients can even be treated at home to reduce the burden on health services. 

Uses of AI to improve energy performance

Wind energy is central to Scotland’s net-zero ambitions, and AI is helping to optimise its performance.  At RWE’s Robin Rigg in Dumfries and Galloway, the first Scottish offshore wind farm, AI predicted when maintenance is needed.

AI also supports energy efficiency improvements in Scottish homes through a project funded by The Data Lab. In collaboration with Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, thermal imaging company IRT conducts property surveys with support from AI. 

The combination of advanced cameras and AI can identify heat loss ten times faster than existing methods. Once areas of inefficiency have been identified, building upgrades can be arranged such as cavity wall insulation.  

When combined with technologies such as sensors and Internet of Things devices, AI can also deliver potential energy and operations cost savings. 

Solving global challenges with AI in Scotland

In Scotland, AI technologies are addressing a variety of environmental and societal issues. 

Edinburgh-based startup Trade in Space predicts and monitors global environmental conditions using satellite data and AI modelling tools. The Data Lab's assistance has helped the company to expand and scale up its operations.

Aveni, an Edinburgh-based fintech company, uses AI to identify vulnerable customers who use automated bank phone lines. Customers then receive personalised banking services and extra support. The company recently secured funding of £2.75 million to boost further growth, with investors including Scottish Enterprise.

Another startup, Inicio AI, has deployed AI to provide debt-support services on a platform based on income and outgoings. With customers interacting with an app, the company hopes to remove the social stigma associated with discussing financial concerns.
Meanwhile, robots developed at Heriot-Watt University's National Robotarium in Edinburgh offer solutions to the global workforce shortage across multiple industries. 

Scottish talent and investment in AI

The year 2023 marks 60 years since the University of Edinburgh began research into computer science and AI. The University of Edinburgh remains integral to AI developments throughout Scotland and internationally. The university is also home to the AI Accelerator Programme, which assists startups and bigger businesses to progress projects towards commercialisation.

Furthermore, all 14 of Scotland's universities have been continual drivers of innovation. Projects push the boundaries of technology and equip students with the skills they need for successful careers.  

Training is a recurring aspect of the work of The Data Lab. Headquartered in Edinburgh, the organisation offers courses to people with skills who may not have access to digital training opportunities. This could include people with qualifications not recognised in the UK or those returning to work after having a child. 
“It’s important that we are investing in upskilling and reskilling people to use these technologies,” says Hills.
This combination of talent, investment, and expertise is firmly positioning Scotland as a leading hub for AI in Europe.

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