Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Derek Mackay addressing Data Summit in Edinburgh

Datafest18 success underlines Scotland’s strength in global data market

DataFest18, which was held between 19-23 March, saw an excess of 3,000 participants, with over 45 events taking place across seven towns and cities in Scotland.

DataFest18 is a celebration of data-driven innovation, and was applauded for its focus on the potential positive power of the ethical use of data.

From predicting pandemics and childhood obesity to enhancing B2B payments and earthquake response, various examples of how data can be used for good were showcased throughout the festival.

Data Talent saw 300 data science and engineering students mix with a number of Scotland’s leading employers including Royal Bank of Scotland, SAS and Merkle Aquila. Inspiring speakers included Lydia Nicholas, Futurologist and Senior Researcher at Nesta, Roger Halliday, Chief Statistician at the Scottish Government and Stephen Breslin, CEO of the Glasgow Science Centre.

Data Summit, the two-day international conference held in Edinburgh, attracted over 450 attendees who saw headline speakers from far and wide including Dr. Hannah Fry who gave insights on the BBC Pandemic project she’s leading on, Alex Depledge MBE, founder of and former CEO of, Stefaan Verhulst, Co-founder and Chief Research and Development Officer of The Gov Lab in New York, and Kirk Borne, Principal Data Scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton, and ex- NASA PhD Astrophysicist.

CEO of The Data Lab, Gillian Doherty, said: “DataFest took place at a time when data was top of the news agenda. What DataFest18 achieved was putting the potential positive power of data to the fore. A prominent theme throughout the week was the ethical use of data which has to remain a key focus for everyone in the industry.

“The data sector in Scotland is on the rise and the success of DataFest underlines this. It is essential that events like this shine a light on the prospective benefits and opportunities that can be achieved when data is used ethically.”

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Derek Mackay, who addressed Data Summit said: “I am delighted to give my support to DataFest18, which brings key figures from around the globe to Scotland and showcases our work in this area. Scotland already has impressive data infrastructure and skills, with world class research taking place in our universities and a thriving data business sector. We are now in a great position to seize the advantage of data driven innovation to help boost our economy and become the data capital of Europe.”

Forty-four Fringe Events took place across Scotland including hackathons, networking and inspiring workshop sessions for school pupils stretching from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Inverness, Dundee and Aberdeen.

The festival was organised by The Data Lab in partnership with Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government. It was sponsored by SAS, Merkle Aquila, Sainsbury’s Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Heineken and Barclays. UNICEF and Street Soccer Scotland were its charity partners.

Kirk Borne, Principal Data Scientist, Booz Allen Hamilton, who spoke at Data Summit said: “DataFest 2018 was perhaps the most thoroughly comprehensive and exciting data extravaganza that I have ever experienced. An entire country got into the fun, with talks and hackathons and panels and social-good activities and so much more. The conversations surrounding the event, before, during, and after, with amazing data practitioners, were informative, insightful, inspirational, innovative, and igniting. There was something at DataFest for everyone who works with data. I look forward to participating again in the future.”

Nick Finch, Co-founder and CTO at DataPA, attended Data Summit and added: “Data Summit was such a positive departure from the usual events we attend. We had some great discussions with both academics and businesses during the exhibition. The contacts we’ve made and insights we’ve gained from Data Summit have made a real impact on what we’re planning with our own projects. We look forward to taking part again next year.”